Xcel Charges Customers For Private Jets

Customers Upset By Luxury Spending, Larger Energy Bills

Xcel Energy had consumers pay more than $1 million last year for employees to fly in two luxury jets despite many consumers seeing substantial energy increases this summer, CALL7 Investigators have learned.

Last year, Xcel also wanted consumers to pay for a $15,000 meal at Frasca in Boulder, more than $41,000 in luxury hotel and spa charges as well as trips to Spain and sports tickets. That request was pulled after it was publicized.

But Xcel concedes that consumers are paying for employees to fly private jets -- many of which are only partly full.

Consumers were upset that their hard-earned money went for lavish spending.

"This is last month's bill -- I was just floored," said Parker resident Lisa Beckman, whose Xcel bill went from $130 to $300 this summer. "They're kind of like the Wall Street boys. They get to fly around and have a good time."

Xcel spokesman Tom Henley said the jets are necessary to improve efficiency for Xcel employees and that efficiency helps keep rates down.

"When you look at commercial aircraft versus a corporate plane, you have much more productivity from the employees who are taking the corporate aircraft than you do on a commercial flight," he said.

But Beckman disagreed.

"I work for a living and I have to fly for business," Beckman said. "We don't have private jets, we're very efficient. You know, I can fly to my outside offices for $130 roundtrip. I have a very hardworking day. I don't understand a private jet. I've never understood the need for private jets for companies."

Henley also said consumers are not paying for the pricey meals, luxury hotels or travel because that was pulled out of the rate increase, but he had trouble explaining who was paying for those items.

"Those costs are now being borne by shareholders," Henley said.

"Does Xcel have another revenue source other than folks who pay their rates to Xcel?" asked CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta.

"No," Henley said.

"So ultimately ratepayers still paid for those lavish dinners and conferences, isn't that correct?" Marchetta asked.

"That's not accurate because it's not based on the rate," Henley said.

Henley later e-mailed Marchetta to say Xcel also receives money from shareholders and selling energy, but he did not say where the money comes from to pay back shareholders who have seen stock price and dividends remain stable or increase in the past year.

Consumers said they eventually will pay for all the lavish spending even if it's out of the rate case request before the Public Utilities Commission.

"Who’s paying for that?" said Fort Collins resident Anna Gough. "It’s coming out of their pocket, but we’re putting money in their pocket, and we’re the ones who are seeing the increase in our energy bills."

Our sister station in Minneapolis, KSTP-TV, tracked Xcel flights between Colorado and Minnesota. KSTP reporters found many of the flights were half full or even flown with no passengers. CALL7 Investigators also obtained video of the Xcel plane from Airtracker 7 at Centennial Airport.

Henley acknowledged that the average Xcel corporate jet has five people -- slightly more than half of the eight-seat plane's capacity.

"There are many other options for travel than taking private jets that fly many, many times partially full?" Marchetta asked.

"Every single flight last year on average was more than half full on an 8 seat plane," Henley said.

Henley did concede that Xcel changed its entertainment policy after last year’s controversy.

"Since we pulled those expenses from the policy or the rate case here in Colorado, we've looked at the overall expense policy and employee expense policy for the company, and tightened it up significantly," Henley said.

"Given the concerns about the expenses for the jets, will Xcel review those policies as well or the usage of those private jets?" Marchetta asked.

"That one I don't have an answer for you,” Henley said.

Additional Information:

  • If you want to contact Xcel, call 800-895-4999