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When Xcel Energy launched major energy efficiency programs in 2007, saving power was as easy as changing a light bulb, particularly for the utility's business customers. But now, the old incandescent lights are being phased out of existence and energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are the norm. And some customers are looking at pricey new light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, which uses even less energy than CFLs for their home and business needs.
As a result, Xcel says further energy-use reductions will be harder to come by for many customers. And the utility says its forecasts indicate that meeting the targets it's been given by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for 2015 through 2020 will be harder and more expensive for its customers. Xcel's customers currently pay a monthly surcharge - about 3.5 percent of their monthly electricity bill to help pay for energy-efficiency programs and rebates.
So Xcel has asked the Colorado PUC to scale back the efficiency targets the utility should meet during the next five years. It's a request that's meeting with opposition from businesses in the energy-efficiency sector as well as environmental groups. The commissioners are expected to make their decision in late May or early June.
"Over time, as we are successful it becomes more challenging to maintain the same energy savings level without increasing investment in our programs," Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said via email.
But others counter that it's cheaper to pay for energy-efficient upgrades than it is to build new power plants and transmission lines. "Not using a kilowatt of energy is the cheapest energy there is," said Danny Katz, the director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG), an environmental advocacy group. "We think there's more to be done."
Xcel's proposal would cut its 2020 goal by 50 percent compared to its current target, and result in about 28 percent less energy saved compared to 2014, Katz said.
"All our bills will go up if we have Xcel said. to build a new coal-fired power," he said.
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