In the face of regulatory challenges in Minnesota, Xcel Energy Inc. on Wednesday assigned a veteran executive to run its division in the state after promoting regional CEO Judy Poferl to corporate secretary.
The leadership changes stem from the retirement of Cathy Hart after 13 years as Xcel’s corporate secretary, the company said in an announcement at its annual meeting in Eau Claire, Wis.
Poferl, who was promoted to replace Hart, has been president and CEO of Xcel’s Minnesota regional operations since 2009. She has more than 25 years of experience in energy and regulation.
Dave Sparby, senior vice president and group president at Xcel, will take over as head of the Minnesota unit, which is still formally called Northern States Power Co. Sparby will continue to oversee Xcel’s four utility operating companies. The company said Sparby’s appointment to the Minnesota post is permanent.
In an interview, Xcel CEO Ben Fowke said that Sparby previously led Xcel’s Minnesota operations, and his experience is needed at a time when the company is asking state regulators to approve an 8.2 percent, or $220 million, rate increase for the company’s 1.2 million electric customers in the state.
The rate hike, which is pending before the state Public Utilities Commission, has been opposed as excessive by commercial and industrial customers and by the state Commerce Department and the state attorney general. In March, Xcel scaled back its request, which originally was 10.7 percent, or $285 million.
“He’s been there before,” Fowke said of Sparby’s experience in Minnesota operations. “We’re in a challenging regulatory environment right now, and that’s to be understood when we are asking for [that] kind of rate relief … We don’t want to lose our focus there.”
In her new post as corporate secretary, Poferl will be in charge of corporate governance and shareholder matters, including the company’s annual meeting.
Xcel also announced that the board raised the quarterly dividend on the company’s common stock to 28 cents per share from 27 cents per share.