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Xcel execs testify at 2nd committee meeting to investigate high utility bills

Legislators are asking the company about why customers' high bills include just about all of the utility companies' business expenses.

DENVER — On Tuesday, the executives of Colorado's utility companies had to clear their afternoons to testify in front of state lawmakers.

The meeting was the second of three scheduled meetings to have lawmakers hear why utility rates have risen so much and what, legislatively, might be needed to keep natural gas prices and utility bills from rising in the future.

Over eight states, Xcel made $1.7 billion in profits in 2022. Of that amount, $727 million was from Colorado alone.

One lawmaker took Tuesday's opportunity to ask Xcel Energy Colorado CEO Robert Kenney about record profits being made while customers are seeing record bills.

"You repeatedly said that you invest your profits into infrastructure into the state. What do you mean by that?," asked state Sen. Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder).

"I don't want to leave you with the impression that I'm trying to say we don't make profits. We do, but we also invest back into infrastructure more than what our profits actually are," Kenney said. "So the way that we do that is by going to Wall Street into the capital markets, either through debt or equity, and raising the capital that we need to continue making investments, and so it's a continuous cycle."

There was also significant questioning about why Xcel passes along to customers the legal fees it incurs to argue for rate increases.

On the most recent gas rate increase, that was $2 million.

Several viewers have also asked Next about natural gas storage. 

The short answer is there is less storage capability in Colorado than there used to be. The executives said Tuesday if lawmakers want to incentivize them to build more, they could.

"I think increased storage is an option," said Nick Wagner, the vice president of Black Hills Energy. "If there are some ways that this body could help incentivize or provide, maybe eliminate roadblocks or again incentivize more storage. We do have some storage constraints."

That would mean more costs for customers since everything they build they get paid back, plus interest.

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