PUC blocks Xcel's smart-grid fee hikes
"We are disappointed in today's decision by the PUC," said Michelle Aguayo, a spokeswoman for Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL). "SmartGridCity has provided benefits to our customers and valuable information to us about technologies that are feasible and could be deployed cost-effectively in Boulder and elsewhere on our system."
In addition, the SmartGridCity project improved Xcel's ability to repair or replace equipment before failure; lower energy bills through voltage optimization; and save operations and maintenance costs, Aguayo said.
The SmartGridCity project, started in 2008, allowed Xcel to manage voltage flows on appliances for customers who signed up for it.
An administrative law judge ruled in February that the electric and natural-gas utility should not be allowed to collect the $16.6 million in program costs because Xcel did not meet criteria that showed customer benefits. PUC commissioners upheld the administrative law judge's decision, Terry Bote, a PUC spokesman, said Thursday.
In particular, Xcel's application to the PUC to allow the utility to recoup the $16.6 million through customer rates did not meet predetermined criteria, Bote said.
"We gave you opportunities to come back and present your case, and you didn't do it," Bote said, speaking of Xcel Energy.
SmartGridCity was billed as the first comprehensive plan in the nation to use "smart-grid" technologies to manage electricity use from a power plant to appliances in a customer's home. The cost of the project soared to $44.5 million, but many customers who signed up for it did not use the technology.
PUC commissioners in January 2011 said Xcel could recover $27.9 million of the program costs through customer rates. At that time, the commissioners said they would withhold the last $16.6 million until Xcel could show customer benefits, as well as a comprehensive plan.
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