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Xcel Energy’s Smart Grid meter replacement plan charges customers twice

DENVER–Part of Xcel Energy’s plan to replace all electric meters in Colorado with “smart meters” as part of its multi-billion-dollar Colorado Energy Plan includes forcing customers to pay for the existing meters Xcel decided to replace.

Xcel wants to replace “legacy” Automatic Reading Meters with new Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) meters while at the same time reducing the service life of the new meters of from 25 years to 20 years.

On top of the $52.7 million Xcel wants to charge Colorado ratepayers for the purchase and installation of the new AMI meters, the Smart Grid Rider submitted by Xcel to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) seeking the rate hike says that in 2026, Xcel would begin amortizing an estimated $60 million in  depreciation of some of its 5 million older meters over 8.5 years, once the program to replace them with AMI meters has been completed.

Effectively, ratepayers would be paying both for the new meters they didn’t ask for and the undepreciated old meters which Xcel also says are worth nothing by way of salvage value, raising the question of why ratepayers should continue to pay for old technology Xcel decided it doesn’t need anymore.

Analogized, it is as if your car dealer tows away your car without asking, leaving you a new one. The dealer claims that both of you will benefit from the new technology as justification for the exchange. The dealer then bills you for the new car, but also forces you to continue to pay off your old car while simultaneously claiming its worth nothing and scrapping it.

As previously reported in Complete Colorado, the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Council objected to a number of things in the rider, including the meter double-dipping.  In response the PUC sent the matter to an Administrative Law Judge on August 14 and suspended the proposed rate change for 120 days, until December 15.

A prehearing conference is scheduled for September 22, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. in the hearing room of the PUC at 1560 Broadway, Suite 250, Denver, Colorado.

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