Xcel Energy said Monday that it expects to raise its Minnesota electric rates by 6.1 percent, or $168 million, under a two-year rate hike approved last week by state regulators.
Although the increase is far short of what the Minneapolis-based utility originally requested, the company reaffirmed its profit projections for the year.
Xcel’s 1.2 million electric customers of Minnesota will need to wait a few weeks to know how much their bills are going up. That’s because regulators last week ordered another study of how the increase should be spread among residential and business customers based on the cost of serving them.
Ratepayers have been paying a 4.6 percent interim increase since Jan. 1, 2014. Although the rate will go up again in 2015, the overall increase will be nowhere near the double-digit percentage gains once predicted by consumer advocates like AARP Minnesota.
“It’s a clear win for the consumer,” said Will Phillips, state director for the advocacy group representing older Minnesotans.
In its rate decision, the state Public Utilities Commission rejected Xcel’s request to increase the basic charge that customers pay regardless of how much power they use. Consumer groups had argued that increasing the charge, which will remain $8 per month, would penalize those who conserve energy.
“That is a big deal,” added Phillips, who praised the PUC for its thorough process. “It was over a year of auditing — and they listened to the public,” he said.
The $168 million increase approved last Thursday is 42 percent less than Xcel’s original two-year rate hike, and 24 percent less than a scaled-back revised request the company submitted in February. Xcel’s original request called for a 6.9 percent increase in 2014 and 3.5 percent in 2015.
Xcel was granted a 9.72 percent return on equity, which is less than what it has been authorized in recent rate cases, but more than some commissioners favored.
In a regulatory filing Monday, Xcel reiterated its 2015 earnings guidance of $2 to $2.15 per share.
Earlier last week, Barclays Equity Research upgraded Xcel’s stock to buy in anticipation of a “constructive outcome” in the Minnesota rate case. “Resolution of this rate case should remove a long-standing overhang from the stock,” analysts wrote.
Xcel’s share price rose Friday, and again Monday, closing at $34.74, up 35 cents, or 1 percent, for the day.