Xcel Energy seeks to reduce energy efficiency programs

Xcel Energy Inc. (NYSE: XEL) is seeking to lower goals it must meet for energy efficiency, saying it has made major strides in this arena, and that wringing additional savings will be difficult and costly for rate payers.

Xcel is arguing for lower standards during hearings this week at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Xcel says that a scheduled increase in its energy efficiency programs will lead to rate increases for customers. Xcel invests $75 million annually in the program, which offers rebates for high efficiency lighting, appliances, furnaces, air conditioners and achieves 1.35 percent energy savings as a percentage of the company’s total sales. Its existing agreement with the utilities commission requires that it achieve energy savings equal to 1.85 percent of its total sales between 2015 and 2020.

“We are trying to deliver maximum benefits while balancing program costs,” Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said.

The Public Utilities Commission heard testimony Tuesday in the case. Hearings will continue Wednesday and Thursday.

The Denver environmental group Conservation Colorado contends that continuing the program will lead to $600 million in projected savings on utility bills for businesses and households.

The reduction in electricity demand from the program has prevented 1.1 million tons of pollution and saved 650 million gallons of water as of 2013 as well as created 1,000 energy efficiency-related jobs, according to Conservation Colorado.

“There’s more that can be done,´ said Chris Arend, spokesman for Denver environmental group Conservation Colorado. “We don’t think it’s a good idea to be reducing any of these efficiency goals.”

Xcel argues that because it has already incorporated so many new, efficient energy saving devices, such as compact fluorescent lights, into its network, that achieving additional savings to meet the higher standards will be difficult and expensive.

“Some of the goals that we have set into the future, we want to take a look at those because they will be more difficult to achieve based on some of the standards we set a couple years ago,” Stutz said.

Mark Brown, board president of the Energy Efficiency Business Coalition, which is testifying in favor of an increase in the program goals, said that Xcel can achieve the increased program goals. Formed in 2007, the coalition represents heating, air conditioning, lighting and energy-auditing companies.

“We believe that there are plenty of other opportunities with existing technology, new technologies and even programs they have implemented that allow them to make up for what they’re going to be losing in the lighting sector,” he said.

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