Opinion | Xcel bills have never been higher, but here are ways we are trying to help | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Xcel bills have never been higher, but here are ways we are trying to help

Robert Kenney
Xcel Energy–Colorado president

Over the last year, we know our customers have had to deal with higher prices for everything from gas  to eggs to energy. Unfortunately, those higher prices have also affected utility bills. We’ve heard from  you that, during this cold winter, your Xcel Energy bills have never been higher. And we know that some  of our customers are having a hard time making ends meet.  

We hear you. That’s why I’m writing today to share what we are doing to help our customers. 

We offer dozens of energy- and money-saving options for all customers, including rebates, home energy audits, and discounts on items that can help reduce energy costs. We also offer income-qualified customers products to track their natural gas and electric consumption, and provide products, services, and education designed to help lower energy bills.  

We’ve also stepped up our efforts to connect customers who are having difficulty paying their bills with  programs that can help. Our longstanding energy assistance program helps those in need by capping  Xcel Energy costs for eligible customers at 6% of household income. We also work with state and local  agencies and other partners to direct payment assistance to customers with the greatest need. In 2022  alone, about 71,500 Colorado customers received approximately $87.5 million in energy bill assistance. 

If customers face challenges paying their bills, we encourage them to contact us to learn more about  payment assistance and other options for managing their bills, including our Averaged Monthly Payment program, which makes monthly energy bills more predictable. 

And we are continually looking for more ways to do right by our customers. This week we will make a  significant donation to Energy Outreach Colorado to further assist our customers who need help with  their bills. 

We are creating a low-and-fixed-income advisory group to help us explore more and creative solutions  to helping all our customers use energy more affordably. We know that we don’t have all the answers  and that we need help from others to find creative solutions.  

And this summer, in preparation for next winter, we will ramp up our efforts to offer energy audits and  weatherization to income-qualified neighborhoods to make sure our customers have the equipment  they need to help keep bills low and their make their homes ready for winter. 

All these programs will help our customers, especially our low-income customers, weather the challenge of high energy bills. But it’s also important to understand what is driving higher bills.

First, natural gas  prices on a global scale have been much higher throughout this winter. Supplies of natural gas, in part driven by limits on domestic production, have been constrained. We’ve seen increased demand as the economy recovers and reopens from the COVID-19 pandemic. And world conflicts like those playing out in Ukraine have cause natural gas prices to spike.

The second major factor driving up energy bills this winter is that it has been historically cold — driving  customers across our state to have to use much more natural gas just to keep their homes at the same  temperature they always have. In fact, on Dec. 22, 2022, the temperature dropped to 24 degrees below zero. That is the coldest official temperature in Denver in over 30 years.  

A silver lining is that natural gas prices have come down recently and are projected to continue to fall in  the coming months. As prices come down, we adjust our rates to pass along those decreases to our  customers.  

It’s also important to note that we don’t make any money on the commodity that we sell to our  customers. What we pay for natural gas is exactly what we charge our customers. There’s no markup;  we don’t make a dime on the sale of the natural gas that hits your bill.  

That doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything possible and using all available tools to make sure we are  getting the best deals for our customer. We take steps to buy and store natural gas before we need it so  that we have ample supply on hand at the least cost. We also take care to use financial instruments to  protect against price fluctuations. Finally, we have increased our communications with our customers,  sending customer alerts when gas prices hit high thresholds and providing tips on how to save energy  and money.  

We’re also saving our customers money through the investments we are making in wind and solar. For  example, because wind and solar power generate electricity without fuel cost, our clean energy  investments have saved Colorado customers almost $700 million in avoided fuel costs and tax credits  from 2017 to 2021. Those savings will increase as we continue adding renewable energy to the grid. 

And we are committed to building thriving Colorado communities, spending more than $500 million  with local suppliers in 2021 and paying more than $225 million in property taxes, taxes that support the  needs of the communities we’re privileged to serve. 

Our more than 4,000 employees who call Colorado home — your family, friends, and neighbors — work  every day to find energy solutions that keep costs low for our customers. And those same family,  friends, and neighbors are working to build their communities. During our 2022 annual Day of Service,  nearly 2000 Xcel Energy coworkers, retirees, family and friends from around state volunteered with  local nonprofit organizations. They also donated more than $800,000 to support hundreds of nonprofits and United Way chapters. 

We understand that energy is a necessity in people’s lives. From lighting the darkness and powering our  economy to keeping our families warm on the coldest nights, we are here every day for our customers  and our communities. Through hard times we stand by our customers and will work diligently as trusted  partners to help you power on, while transforming our business to anticipate and better serve your  needs long into the future. 

We hear you Colorado, and we will continue working hard every day to earn your trust and be your  preferred energy provider.  

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