MINNEAPOLIS – Xcel Energy held the first of several public hearings across the state this week, asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a rate increase over the next two years.
Senior citizens crowded the first public hearing at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Minneapolis to hear more about the company's plan.
The proposed increase would raise customer's rates 4.6 percent in 2014, with an additional 5.6 percent increase in 2015, adding an estimated $10 a month to a bill after the two years.
"Our Social Security is so much and you can only stretch it so far," said Marie Waight, of North Minneapolis. "Most people don't have that money to dish out for utilities and I feel, we, as citizens should speak up for our rights."
Xcel Energy spokesperson Chris Clark, Regional Vice President of Rates and Regulatory Affairs, said while the company realizes it's a hardship to some, it also must consider an investment in reliable service for the future.
"We are very well aware anytime we are requesting an increase we are requesting an additional cost to our customers. That said, we are focusing on investing in our system in our long term, about 45 percent in costs of nuclear plants for about 20 years and investing in carbon free energy resources," said Clark.
AARP Minnesota launched a print and broadcast ad campaign to fight the proposed increase.
"Break that down, 10 bucks a month. That may seem nominal to a lot of folks but for people still struggling to make ends meet, that are seeing prescription drugs increase, everything on rise except for their income. Makes it difficult," said Will Phillips, AARP Minnesota State Director.
Regina Tarver, of North Minneapolis, said her fixed income on Social Security doesn't allow room for Xcel's proposed increase.
"You get behind in winter and then catch up in summer and they want to increase it? I think that's exploitation," she said.
Xcel said if the increase goes through next year, about 25 percent would be invested in existing power plants. In a press release, the company said the importance of a resilient electric grid was seen during the June 2013 Minnesota storms that resulted in half of Xcel's customers without power.
A decision is expected in
There are several more public hearings across Minnesota this week. Read details of times and locations here.