It’s been a few years since I’ve ranted about Xcel increasing its rates yet again, so here we go. Feel free to stop reading now; I won’t be offended.
You see, Xcel has an energy monopoly here in Colorado. They provide both gas and electricity, so for the great majority of us, there’s no place else to go for power. That convenient arrangement allows them to hike their rates every year — with no competition except perhaps the few homes with solar panels or maybe their very own wind turbine.
So now they’ve announced another great way to save us all some money. By the end of 2023, all Xcel customers in Colorado will be gifted a nifty new “smart meter” that can tell us (and Xcel) exactly when we are using the most power. Gee, seems pretty simple to me. If it’s hot during the day, we all crank up the A/C (except those folks who leave home to work during the day). And if it’s cold, we fire up the heat. We’re smart enough to avoid doing laundry on a hot afternoon and to use the microwave instead of the oven to fix dinner on a hot night.
The real-time readouts will give a household a better handle on when and how much energy they use, said Xcel Energy-Colorado President Alice Jackson. “It will give more transparency, more control.” — Colorado Sun
This change will also bring “time-of-use” rates, so we lucky customers can benefit by avoiding peak hours. The most expensive power will be between 3 pm and 7 pm, so now we’ll know to reduce our demand for A/C during those hours. Except, gosh darn it, those are the peak hours for A/C. So it’s really not so much for the consumer’s information as it is for Xcel’s bottom line. Document exactly when customers use the most power and charge them more at that time. Genius!
Why am I not surprised? Count on the big corporations to capitalize on our changing work habits — more people working from home and needing more power during the day — and changing climate.
As an addendum, a reprint from Pied Type, Aug. 2, 2010:
Another consumer rant
We’re into midsummer now and I’m still trying to judge the full impact of a rate increase from my power company, Xcel Energy. All their assurances that their new “tiered” rate system (the more you use, the higher your rate per kwh) for summer was “budget neutral” didn’t matter.
It might be budget neutral for them, but I suspected it wasn’t going to be budget neutral for me. On the contrary, it looked like a decidedly unfair increase for me, and I called to protest. The people who answered the phone should be politicians in Washington, so good is their ability to say much while saying nothing. I also wrote them:
I’m very concerned about your new tiered rate system for summer and feel it will impose a disproportionate burden on me and others like me:
- I’m a retiree, at home all day. Obviously my air conditioning needs will be greater than people who are gone all day at work and can turn the A/C off in their absence.
- I have allergies, and a closed house with air conditioning is often necessary.
- I’m on a fixed income, and less able to adapt to higher rates than someone who works.
- At my age, I’m less adaptable to extremes in temperature than younger people and am less able to choose higher or lower thermostat settings to compensate for higher energy bills.
- I’ve been trying to do my part by participating in your Windsource program. Dropping it is the one way I can see to help offset a rate hike.
Can you at least provide specifics about the new rates, so that people like me will have some warning about what sort of increases to expect?
In response, I received an email just as unresponsive as the phone conversation. They did offer me an application for some assistance program, which I’m sure I’m not poor enough to qualify for.
So I canceled the Windsource program. I really hated to do that, because I believe in supporting alternative energy sources when I can, but so be it.
Within three days, Xcel called me to offer me a Saver Switch for my A/C. I told them no. Hell no. My parents had one in Oklahoma one summer. It turned off their A/C for 15 minutes every hour, during which time the house would get several degrees hotter. Fine if your system can recover those degrees in the next 45 minutes, but if it can’t, you lose ground all day and your house gets progressively hotter. Do NOT get suckered into having one of those switches installed on your A/C if you live in a really hot climate or have a barely adequate cooling system.
Within the same three-day window, a different Xcel rep called to offer me a free home energy audit. No, I told them. I don’t want to deal with you and I don’t want to pay any more money for “energy-saving” improvements than I already have. I’m aware that thousands of dollars in additional insulation, attic fans, new windows, etc. might reduce my electricity use, but unless Xcel is going to pay for those improvements, forget it.
That’s about the end of my rant. Bottom line is, Xcel raised its rates and there wasn’t a damn thing the public could do about it. And even though dropping Windsource saved about $30 a month, my bill for June was 30% higher than a year ago. Ouch!
“The new tiered system is not a rate hike; it’s just a new way of calculating your bill.”