Colorado utility regulators are proposing to abolish Xcel Energy’s popular Windsource voluntary wind-energy program and instead have all ratepayers cover the slightly higher costs of the program.
The staff of the Public Utilities Commission said in a filing that it no longer makes sense to charge a premium price for “green” power.
The staff proposal says that spreading the Windsource costs among all ratepayers would create a “negligible” increase in rates, a small fraction of 1 percent.
Customers who buy all their power from Windsource now pay an average of $58.55 a month, not including taxes and franchise fees. Typical customers using conventional power pay $52.58 a month.
For a two-month period last year when natural-gas costs rose, Windsource power was priced up to $10 a month less than conventional power.
Despite the current premium price, the 60-megawatt Windsource program has been popular, with more than 34,000 Colorado participants and a waiting list of about 1,000 households.
Within the next year, Xcel will have more than 1,000 megawatts of wind power in its Colorado system after the opening of several new wind farms. One megawatt of wind power serves 300 to 400 customers.
“Charging a small group of (Windsource) customers a price premium for these 60 megawatts when the cost of the remaining 1,000 (megawatts) will be shared by all ratepayers makes little sense,” the PUC staff said in a filing to the commissioners that govern the agency.
The PUC proposal is opposed by Xcel; the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, a utility watchdog agency; and Western Resource Advocates, an environmental research group.
Rick Gilliam, an official with the resource group, said paying a premium price for Windsource protects customers from the volatility of coal and natural-gas prices. The cost of generating power from wind doesn’t vary much, he said.
“It’s not just an environmental program, but it provides customers with stable rates,” he said. “There’s a value in stability, and the premium to do that is not very much.”
Staff writer Steve Raabe can be reached at 303-954-1948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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