PUC to hear why Xcel should be able to weaken energy efficiency goals

Photo: Compact Flourescent bulbThe Public Utilities Commission has scheduled hearings this week on whether to lower Xcel Energy’s efficiency goals.

The commission requires Xcel to encourage customers to save energy, and Xcel gets a bonus when it succeeds.

The goals were first set in 2007, and Xcel has exceeded them each year, mostly by encouraging more efficient lighting.

But company spokeswoman Deb Sundin says it’s getting harder and harder to show savings, because energy efficiency standards have gone up.

It used to be that Xcel had to convince consumers to go from incandescent bulbs to compact flourescents, and the savings was significant. But now, for the company to get the same credit, it has to convince customers to save even more.

"Now that same compact fluorescent is being installed in the market," she explained. "They’re still saving a lot of energy, but we can only take credit for a part of it."

The company says if the goals aren’t lowered, the costs of meeting them will be passed onto consumers.

Howard Geller, with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, opposes lowing the company’s standards.

"We think they’re overstating the costs," he said. "There are a lot of new technologies coming along that provide new savings opportunities: LED lamps, smart thermostats, that help to maintain high savings without large increases in program costs."

The Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to hear arguments through Thursday, and is expected to rule within six weeks of hearing the arguments.