The Public Service Commission has reached what it’s calling a comprehensive settlement with Xcel Energy over a number of issues.
And the PSC says the bottom line is: Customers will see a refund on their monthly bills, and Xcel will freeze its electric rates until 2017.
Commissioner Brian Kalk says much of the settlement deals with mandates to Xcel from Minnesota lawmakers. Kalk says one part of the settlement is – North Dakota customers do not have to pay for 15 community-based energy development projects and two small solar projects – all of which are in Minnesota. Kalk says that will save North Dakota ratepayers about $3 million.
"Roughly $1 to $1.10 is the decrease for the average customer by us not allowing this to go forward," Kalk said.
Kalk says Xcel has also agreed to build 200 megawatts of natural gas-fired electrical generation – somewhere in the state.
"There's been a long standing discussion between North Dakota and Xcel," Kalk said. "They don't build anything in North Dakota."
Kalk says by approving this agreement, the PSC is sticking to its guns when it comes to reasons for approving projects and rates.
"If you need it, and it's low cost, we'll approve it," Kalk said. "If you don't need it, and it isn't low cost, we won't."
Kalk says it will now be up to Minnesota regulators – and regulators in other states – on how to handle rates for those project that resulted from Minnesota mandates.
Also, Xcel customers will see a one-time credit on their monthly bills. It’s a refund of money customers paid to Xcel – to dispose of spent nuclear fuel. But because the Department of Energy didn’t find a way to dispose of that spent fuel – and it was being stored on site at Xcel’s nuclear plants – lawsuits were filed.
North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk says this refund is based on the years 2014 to 2016. He says in that time, North Dakota Xcel customers paid about $700,000. And Kalk says that’s the amount to be refunded.
"No later than 90 days from this order, customers would receive a one-time bill credit of $3 for the average customer," Kalk said.
About 30 percent of the electricity used by Xcel customers in North Dakota comes from the utility’s two Minnesota nuclear plants.