Higher-Tiered Xcel Rates Provide No Exceptions

No Discounts For Those Who Medically Require Electricity Around The Clock

Electricity bills for the majority of Xcel users will increase during the summer months.

Starting June 1, Xcel begins its tiered rate system. Xcel customers will pay one rate for usage up to 500 kilowatt hours (kWh). Any usage more than 500 kWh each month will be charged at a higher rate. According to Xcel, 60 percent of customers use an average of 632 kWh per month.

"It's essentially a way to hopefully influence customer's behavior," said Xcel spokesman Tom Henley.

Currently, Xcel customers pay 3.1 cents per kWh for "Residential General." When you add up all the other adjustments and fees on your bill, Xcel customers are currently paying 8.2 cents per kWh. Starting June 1, the "Residential General" rate increases to 4.6 cents per kWh. When you add up all the other adjustments and fees, Tier I billing (the first 500 kWh) will be 9.8 cents per kWh. If you use more than 500 kWh, the "Residential General" rate increases to 9.0 cents per kWh. When you add up all the other adjustments and fee, Tier II billing (more than 500 kWh in one month) will be 14.3 cents per kWh.

There's no exception to the rule, even if your life depends on electricity.

Since October, Jan Bach has used her electricity on an around-the-clock basis.

"The oxygen itself is 24-7 ... At night while I sleep, I have to have the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine as well," Back said.

The CPAP is a device that helps Bach breathe at night.

"I have severe sleep apnea," said Bach. "I (stop) breathing 36 times an hour. (Without the CPAP) it causes excessive heart damage, which is already damaged. It will continue to deteriorate and then eventually I could die in my sleep."

Bach showed 7NEWS her Xcel bills. Before October, she used less than 500 kWh. Since then, she's received an oxygen tank and CPAP machine and uses nearly 700 kWh a month. That kind of usage is going to cost Bach about $20 each month from June to September.

"Twenty dollars when I made $3,600 a month (is one thing) and $20 when it's $800 and $900 a month is a lot," said Bach.

"If I have the air conditioning on as a luxury 24 hours a day and someone has (electricity) on 24 hours a day to survive, we pay the same?" 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger asked.

"Everybody pays the same amount that's a residential customer," said Henley. "It's always been the same way. Everybody has always paid the same amount of money for their energy."

Bach called Xcel herself to see if she could get a discount.

"We understand where you're coming from, unfortunately we don't have anything as of now," said the Xcel customer service representative.

"No exception, no one even working on it," said Bach. "(I'm) very dissatisfied and , more importantly, just crushed that they didn't foresee that this was going to be an issue."

She was told to call the PUC, which approves rate hikes for Xcel.

"If you can give me a second to review my handout here," said the PUC customer service representative. "As far as I know there are no ... exceptions in regards to your situation. You can call and complain after you get your first bill."

Bach said she was told she could reduce her kWh usage by being more energy efficient.

"We've changed our light bulbs, we don't leave lights on," said Bach.

When asked if she could lower her bill despite her oxygen need, Bach shook her head.

"Any more than what it is? I don't think so, I really don't think so," said Bach. "The first tier is because you're good and you're frugal. Anything over that, you're getting spanked because they view you as using too much. Well, I'm pretty frugal."

From October until next May, the tiered system goes away and customers will only pay the Tier One rate. According to Xcel, that should help make the increase revenue neutral.

As for the argument that everyone should pay for their electricity use, Bach said think about your own family members who need electricity to survive.

"That's real easy to say until it's you," said Bach.

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