Xcel Energy wants to offer rebates on electric vehicles to get more of them on Colorado roads

A plan by Xcel Energy-Colorado to offer car rebates to increase the number of electric vehicles in the state is getting praise from those who want gas-guzzling cars off the roads and criticism from those concerned about the impact on the utility’s ratepayers.

The rebates would raise to $130 million from $102 million the amount of money Xcel Energy proposes to spend over three years on its plan to build charging stations for electric vehicles. A 2019 law cleared the way for Xcel Energy and other regulated utilities to invest in equipment and programs to boost the use of electric vehicles, one of Gov. Jared Polis’ major goals.

The law also allows Xcel Energy and other investor-owned utilities to recover the costs of building the charging stations from its customers. The company has proposed an additional charge on customers’ monthly bills, a “rider,” to do that.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is holding hearings on Xcel Energy’s plan, which supporters say would be a giant step toward cutting climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. However, there’s concern that offering rebates for electric vehicles is beyond the scope of what was envisioned and will drive up customers’ electric bills.

State Sens. Chris Hansen and Kevin Priola, sponsors of the electric-vehicle legislation, said in a letter this week to the PUC that the bill was designed to “minimize overall costs and maximize overall benefits.” The bill capped the impacts on retail rates based on a percentage of the utility’s annual revenue requirements.

“Both Sen. Priola and I argued (in the Senate) about how this would be beneficial to customers, how this would be good for ratepayers,” said Hansen, a Democrat from Denver. “The fixed cost of the system gets spread out over more electric sales and that drives down costs for everybody.”

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