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The Associated Press November 23, 2011, 10:30AM ET

Xcel seeks $141.9M hike in Colo. electricity rates

Xcel Energy Inc. has asked Colorado regulators to approve a $141.9 million increase in electricity rates to help it recover costs for items ranging from higher taxes to cutting down beetle-infested trees that could fall on its power lines.

The request would raise monthly electricity bills for typical residential customers by $4.01, or about 6 percent, if approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said Tuesday.

The utility wants the new rates to take effect Dec. 23, but the Public Utilities Commission will likely defer that so it can hold public hearings on the proposal.

Xcel said it plans to file a request for $100 million of the increase to take effect in January on an interim basis while regulators consider the full request. Xcel would credit customers with interest if its full rate increase isn't approved.

The utility recently sought a $29.2 million reduction in a separate rider on customers' bills that is related to costs of purchasing power from other providers. The reduction, together with the rate increase, would raise customers' bills around 4 percent, Xcel said.

Xcel also is seeking a change that would have three cost riders transferred into base electricity rates.

The Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, which represents consumer interests, had no immediate comment on Xcel's request, which was filed near the end of business Tuesday.

"Since our last electric rate case, we have added more than $750 million of investment in Colorado to meet our customers' needs," David Eves, president and chief executive officer of Xcel's subsidiary Public Service Co. of Colorado, said in a written statement.

The proposed rate hike would cover a variety of costs.

Xcel said about $10 million is for removal of trees killed by pine beetles near its transmission system. About $13 million is related to actions to reduce air pollution under the state Clean Air Clean Jobs Act, and Xcel expects a $23 million increase in its property taxes from upgrades to its transmission and distribution systems. Plus, between 2008 and 2012, Xcel Energy will have increased spending on maintenance and operation of its electric distribution system by about $23 million to ensure reliable service, the company said.

Furthermore, the company expects costs of serving customers to rise by $52 million as a deal to sell power to Black Hills Energy expires at the end of the year. Stutz contends the expiring contract will represent a long-term benefit to Xcel customers because it will make more than 300 megawatts of electric capacity available without Xcel having to build new power plants.

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