19 January 2006

Xcel Seeks Lower Natural Gas Prices

Xcel Energy increased natural gas prices dramatically in time for this winter. Now, it says it can reduce natural gas prices by 21% in February.

A record 289,268 customers, more than one in five of its 1.2 million customers in Colorado, are behind on their heating bills (the previous record was in 2003).

[T]he number of customers whose service was disconnected in the fourth quarter of 2005 - 7,942 - was less than half the 18,057 disconnected in the same period in 2003. It was higher, however, than the 6,022 disconnected in the same period in 2004.

Henley said Xcel would not disconnect customers who don't make payments as long as they stay in contact with the utility, make payment arrangements and keep up with those arrangements.

Meanwhile, the number of disconnected customers who made full payments and restored services increased to 5,163 in the fourth quarter of 2005, compared with 3,443 in the same period in 2004.

Fortunately, this winter has been more mild than expected. There have only been a couple of seriously cold nights so far, and we are in the midst of only the second major snowfall this season. And, more than eighty customers a day having their heat shut off in the fall and winter is nothing to sniff at either. When you are the utility company, self-help is a far more powerful tool than it is for your average creditor.

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