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Xcel cares

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:

Gentlemen:

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?

Sincerely,

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.”

Yeah, right.

2 Comments »

  1. And if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…..
    Wind and solar cost more. Sadly not supporting those and more movement/invention in that technology is the choice people will come to make as more companies do things like this.
    All they offer is shallow surface “help”
    With only one company, you are at their mercy (Something we will be watching and noting for relocation for now that you mention it. 30% is a huge hike on limited income) We have a free market energy here – you have to do some research, but you have choices.
    All that “you can see real time how much energy you are using at any time” was a big promo here a few years ago. DUH. All those people who happily signed up and took those “free” Nest thermostats- without reading the fine print about how they could override your choice of temperature whenever they wanted – those people suffered and were stunned recently when the electric COs decided you could do without for a bit (without any warning) until they decided you could have more AC.
    I hate all these interconnected smart devices (“free! You’ll benefit so much from them!!!”) they promote with soothing voices. Buyer beware. They are not your friends.
    And weird rate plans that may work for some, like industry. Here if you turn off the AC or keep it too hot, you get mold…everywhere. It takes hours and hours to cool down a hot AC…which uses more energy.(There like here there’s been so much home building and new people moving in, COVID lockdowns, and people now working from home – demanding is up – add to that more and more electric cars and it’s only going to get worse. Let’s not get into the huge amount of energy cybercurrency/Bitcoin mining is pulling..)
    Once again, the poorest, the older people, those with medical conditions, and even more and more of the struggling middle class are getting slammed with no recourse
    Monopolies are a bad thing. Hoping for a cooler Aug and fall breezes to arrive for you

    • In OKC we had one company for electric and a different one for gas. Having just one here is obviously a real problem. Boulder, I think, is trying to set up their own independent power company. At least it’s dry here. Dealt with mold and mildew in Atlanta and don’t want to ever do that again.

      I’ve got to speak up for Nest thermostats. Maybe the freebies had special stuff done to them, but I love mine. Total control without leaving the couch. And there are days I’d be up and down several times an hour without it. I can set a schedule if I want, override or cancel it if I want. It will even switch between heat and cool as needed. I didn’t get it to save money. I got it for convenience. And I have Google Nest mini speakers around the house so I can call someone for help if needed. And have three new Nest smoke detectors waiting to be installed.

      Yeah, you’ve got major power problems there. They crashed during that extreme cold, and are now cutting you off to save power in the heat. Sounds like, bottom line, they just aren’t prepared to do their job of delivering power.

      Yep, fingers crossed for cooler breezes. Any time now. It was 102 today.

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