By Thomas Garcia
CMi staff writer
Xcel Energy is citing increased energy demand as the reason for seeking a 14.4 percent increase in customer rates.
Xcel filed the proposal Wednesday with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, according to company spokesman Wes Reeves.
Reeves said there has been as much as a 60 percent increase in demand over the past 10 years, prompting Xcel to ask the NMPRC to authorize the increase in electric rates beginning in January 2014.
"One of the highest examples of that demand is in the Hobbs area, which during peak demand there was a 50 percent increase in demand between 2002 and 2012," Reeves said.
Reeves said the Clovis, Portales and Tucumcari areas averaged a 10 percent increase in demand in the last two years.
Reeves said a typical residential customer's monthly bill would see an increase of approximately $23 per month. Even with this increase, New Mexico's Xcel Energy customers would still be paying below the current state and national average.
Xcel last filed for a rate increase in March 2011. The company sought a 6.9 percent increase to generate an additional $19.9 million. Six months later, the NMPRC approved an increase of 4.7 percent or $13.5 million, which became effective Jan. 1, 2012.
"We understand the impact of this proposed increase on our customers, and we offer an extensive suite of programs to help manage and decrease energy needs," said Riley Hill, president and CEO of Xcel's parent company, Southwestern Public Service Company.
"While all customers contribute to the costs of keeping our system safe and reliable," Hill said, "customers can reduce their individual costs by participating in these energy efficiency programs. Combined, these efforts help us strike a reasonable balance between the need to invest in our system and the need to ensure competitive rates and bills."
Reeves said adjusting to the increase in demand has resulted in Xcel spending $450 million to build new power plants and make critical upgrades to existing plants in the last several years.
Reeves said Xcel expects to invest another $1.2 billion through the end of 2014.
An example of the new plants is a $15.8 million backup power system, which will also include a 23 megawatt combustion turbine backup system being installed in Tucumcari, Reeves said. Xcel is projecting the system will be operating by spring.
Reeves said another key driver in the company's $45.9 million request is renewable energy. He said half of the request is due to the investment of transmission and distribution line costs and purchasing renewable energy from state solar and wind farms.
Reeves said New Mexico's Renewable Portfolio Standard requires utilities to provide 10 percent of their total energy from renewable resources. That figure jumps to 15 percent in 2015.
"Xcel Energy is in full compliance with these standards, and our purchases have greatly benefited the local renewable energy economy," Hill said.
More than 100,000 customers in eastern and southeastern New Mexico receive their power from SPSC.
"Our customers benefit from the thriving New Mexico economy and we are well poised to serve it," Hill said. "These investments will not only serve our customers well over the long term, but also provide value to the communities we serve through jobs and the increased property and sales taxes paid by the company."