ST. PAUL — Several environmental groups are asking Xcel Energy to rethink the way they charge people for electricity, arguing it will help with conservation.
Xcel currently charges residential customers a flat rate per kilowatt hour no matter what usage pattern they have.
Five environmental groups say that doesn't encourage people to save energy. Minnesota Public Radio News reports (http://bit.ly/1i8KecY ) they have asked Xcel to charge more as use increases.
Their proposal would charge a lower rate for the first 350 kilowatt hours, a slightly higher amount from 350 to 700 kilowatt hours, and again higher past 700.
"This is an opportunity to lower your energy bill in a way that's more beneficial to you (as) a low-use customer than the current flat-rate structure," said Will Nissen, a policy associate for Fresh Energy. "And it's an opportunity to take advantage of the best energy resource we have in Minnesota, which is simply the kilowatt hour you don't use."
Xcel says they're reviewing the proposal.
Nissen said Xcel is already using tiered prices in Colorado, and less electricity is being used. He also said Minnesota Power customers in northern Minnesota also have tiered prices.
Xcel is seeking state permission to hike electricity rates by 4.6 percent this year and another 5.6 percent in 2015. Xcel says the increases are necessary to pay for new wind energy and increase output from its two nuclear plants.
State regulators aren't expected to act on the request until next year, but public hearings start June 23.