Xcel Energy made several mistakes during last year’s costly winter storm, regulators say


In a statement, Xcel Energy spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said the company acted in the “best interests” of its customers during the storm, which she said presented unprecedented challenges for the utility. “We have learned valuable lessons and have already put policies in place to work more closely with our customers to help reduce the impact of future extreme weather events,” she said.

Xcel had offered to raise bills to recover $509 million from customers to cover storm costs. Commissioners voted on Wednesday to penalize Excel and reduce that amount by $8 million. They will reconsider the proposal before the company is allowed to charge these costs to customers.

Commissioner Megan Gilman said the reduction was small given that Xcel had little control over the natural gas market. The company should expect commodity prices to rise during future extreme weather events, she said.

“Right now society is being warned, we are all being warned, that this could definitely happen again,” she said. “Any future event would be perceived very differently.”

The commission did not reverse an earlier ruling by an administrative law judge, who approved the settlement despite Xcel mismanaging some of its operations.

The state’s Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate, which represents consumer interests, initially raised allegations of inadequate Xcel performance. Director Cindy Schonhaut said she will now look to see if the decision will result in any regulatory changes.

The commissioners also disputed what Xcel said was more than $70 million in financing charges. The commission and the Consumer Advocacy Bureau said the company’s calculations significantly inflated the amount.

Xcel had said it would not charge customers that interest, which Schonhaut called “dishonest.”

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