Utilities merger could save Coloradans millions | CraigDailyPress.com

Utilities merger could save Coloradans millions

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Denver — Coloradans would save a total of $22 million on their electric bills under a proposed settlement agreement filed Monday in the planned merger of New Century Energies and Minnesota-based Northern States Power. — Coloradans would save a total of $22 million on their electric bills under a proposed settlement agreement filed Monday in the planned merger of New Century Energies and Minnesota-based Northern States Power.

— Coloradans would save a total of $22 million on their electric bills under a proposed settlement agreement filed Monday in the planned merger of New Century Energies and Minnesota-based Northern States Power.

Under the proposal filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Public Service Co. of Colorado would cut the electricity base rates by $11 million for two years, said Public Service spokesman Mark Salley.

The savings would be distributed to residential and business customers on their electric bills between July 1 of this year and June 30, 2002. Salley did not know how much money individual customers would save, but he said it would be a small reduction.

Public Service, which is a subsidiary of Denver-based New Century Energies, also agreed to give customers credits on their bills if quality of service declines following the $4 billion merger, which the companies hope will be complete by July.

The PUC must approve any settlement deal before it can take effect. A PUC hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

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Groups that signed on to the agreement were the Office of Consumer Counsel, Colorado Industrial Energy Consumers, the Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation, Catholic Charities, the city and county of Denver and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Management and Conservation.

The PUC staff agreed to the settlement except for the provision for low-income customer assistance.

The settlement also requires Public Service to file an electricity and gas rate case with the commission by May 2002 so the commission can set the rates starting in 2003.

Under the proposal, if the company earns more than it is allowed to at any time through 2006, it must return a portion of that money to its customers.

Public Service Co. also agreed to give $4.75 million over 10 years to the Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation. And it promised to spend $13 million over the next five years to help low-income people pay bills and make housing more affordable.

In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the merger of Minneapolis-based Northern States Power and New Century. The merged company, to be based in Minneapolis and named Xcel Energy Inc., would be the eighth-largest U.S. utility company.

Last week, Northern States made an agreement with Minnesota officials not to pass merger costs to its customers.

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