Renewable mandate drives new increase in utility bills
Minnesotans continue to pay through the nose for one of the nation’s most expensive renewable energy programs. Electric prices rose by 12.5 percent here from 2007 to 2014, versus a 1.6 percent decline in the average price nationwide.
Today the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is taking public testimony in the Twin Cities on Xcel Energy’s latest request for permission to jack up ratepayers’ utility bills by another 9.8 percent over the next three years. The request follows five consecutive years of rate increases for Xcel ratepayers, which begs the question of why.
The liberal grassroots group American Association of Retired Persons is leading the charge against a rate hike that will cost average ratepayers an average of $132 more per year. AARP took out an expensive ad in the Star Tribune this week urging members to show up in force and “raise your voice against another Xcel Energy rate increase” at the PUC hearings.
AARP knows that when utility bills go up, it hurts Minnesota families, especially those on fixed incomes or struggling to make ends meet. That’s why we’re fighting make sure you only pay what’s fair and reasonable for reliable utility service.
So far, so good. AARP’s website also offers an “easy online tool” to help seniors “share their comments and concerns directly with the PUC.” Of course, doing so automatically opts you in “to receive periodic text, picture and video messages” and “action alerts about the issues that matter the most to older Americans.”
But when it comes to educating AARP’s members on the root cause of the problem, the powerful senior citizens lobbying group gives its usually like-minded environmentalist allies and government supporters a pass.
There’s no mention of why its thousands of members’ utility bills have escalated higher and faster than in most other states, in line with the increase in Minnesota’s renewable energy mandate.
Yet Xcel Energy makes it clear that renewable energy costs are driving much of the rate hike on a website dedicated to the issue.
We’re making improvements to our distribution and transmission systems for continued reliability, the ability to safely integrate new energy on our system and to continue to provide carbon-free nuclear energy. Those improvements require investments, so we’re also working with regulators to bring more predictability to your energy bills.
The predictability in our energy bills comes in the form of annual rate increases. And 28 percent of the increase can be directly attributed to “carbon-free energy generation” and “diverse energy,” according to the utility. Another 58 percent goes into the grid for transmission, distribution and technology upgrades, but it’s not clear exactly how much is directly tied to renewable energy development.
Minnesota residents might as well get used to it. If state regulators okay the proposed hike, Xcel customers will have seen their rates increase for eight straight years.