Minnesota utility regulators on Thursday stood by their earlier decision to approve a considerably smaller electricity rate increase than Xcel Energy requested.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 5-0 against reconsidering the June decision, without allowing any comments by Xcel or other parties.
Xcel asked the panel to rehear the case, claiming the commissioners erred legally and demonstrated "unreasonableness" when they decided to increase the company's rates by $306 million, or 9% over three years. Xcel had been asking for an increase of $440 million — 30% more than was approved.
On Thursday, PUC commissioners briefly discussed new evidence submitted by Xcel, Minnesota's largest electricity provider, and then voted to exclude the new documents from the record.
"I don't think they add anything to the record," said Commissioner John Tuma.
The PUC usually rejects petitions to reconsider its decisions. It declined rate-case reconsideration petitions from Minnesota Power in 2021 and Otter Tail Power in 2015.
The next step for Xcel, if it chooses to continue to fight the PUC decision, is to take its case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
"While we disagree with the PUC's decision regarding certain aspects of our case and will assess our options moving forward, we respect the regulatory process and appreciate the support of all stakeholders as we go forward with the critical investments we need to make in our energy future," Xcel said in a statement.
In a separate action as part of the discussion, the PUC voted to clarify that it approved Xcel's request to waive credit card fees for customers beginning in 2024. The company said that policy is more in line with how most other businesses handle credit card fees.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, both of which represent ratepayers before the PUC, recommended that Xcel's reconsideration request be rejected. So did the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota, a ratepayer advocacy group.
Xcel wanted the PUC to look again at certain Xcel costs related to insurance and management compensation. It also wanted the PUC to reverse its decision to slash the utility's monthly service charge from $8 to $6 for residential customers.
Most important, Xcel wanted the PUC to redo its decision on the company's authorized return on equity (ROE) — a key profit measure. Xcel had originally asked the PUC to increase its ROE from 9.06% to 10.2%.
A state administrative law judge concluded in April that 9.87 % would be a "reasonable" ROE for Xcel. Earlier, the Minnesota Department of Commerce found that Xcel had been "flourishing" at its 9.06% ROE but said an increase to 9.25% was merited.
The PUC voted 3-2 in June to set Xcel's ROE at 9.25%. The two commissioners who voted against that ruling wanted an ROE of 9.38%.