Xcel Energy is again cutting natural gas costs passed through to consumers starting with April bills, the third price decrease announced in two months, even as a special legislative committee pursues hearings on spikes that overwhelmed Colorado consumers beginning late in 2022.
The latest cut, proposed to the Public Utilities Commission for Xcel’s 1 million Colorado customers for the second quarter of 2023, will take $1.79 or 4% off the average household natural gas bill each month compared to the March bill. Because Xcel also uses natural gas to generate some of its electricity, consumers’ home electric bills will also drop an average of 56 cents over their March bill, or a drop of 2.7%.
In mid-February, Xcel made an “interim” monthly cut to natural gas pass through costs that trimmed March bills by an average of $11.60, or 11.5%. Electric costs were cut $2.08 a month or 2.34%.
Other cuts of the pass-through cost were made by Xcel on Dec. 1, 2022, and Feb. 1 this year, but those trims followed a series of sharp natural gas price increases in 2022 that were still showing up on residents’ bills this winter.
A mild winter in Europe has helped lower worldwide natural gas prices, as well as European nations’ relatively quick adjustments to losses of natural gas sources as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sabotage of a North Sea gas pipeline.
No one is yet calling off the consumer hounds. The Colorado legislature set up a special joint committee with members from both houses to question utility officials and consumer advocates on bills that reached $600 to $800 a month for many shocked residents in December and January.
Colorado’s early winter was colder on average than the previous one, raising bills, but Xcel charges have also included a series of other cost increases not solely attributable to commodity prices. Xcel has sought big boosts from the PUC for updating electric infrastructure, and will be seeking more for building new transmission lines to help complete the changeover from coal and gas-fired power plants to renewable energy like solar farms and wind turbines.
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By the end of January, requests for help from the Colorado low-income energy assistance program that subsidizes consumer bills were running 50% higher than last year.
The commodity pass-through price can be adjusted through quarterly filings from the utilities, as Xcel did Monday, or through interim monthly adjustments.
Xcel said the commodity price of gas, which it passes on without adding a profit, makes up about 54% of the total residential gas bill, and about 23% of residential electric bills.