Probable increase in utility bill funds expansion - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Probable increase in utility bill funds expansion

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Amarillo, TX -- Your electric bills will most likely be a little higher next year, but you'll see the payoff in our ability to meet the growing energy needs of our area.

Xcel Energy wants to raise an extra $90 million a year to expand access to power across the panhandle, which means they'd have to raise rates.

But lower fuel prices mean some customers won't even notice it on their bill.

2010's record drought pushed some of our power grids to their limits, and now a rising population is placing even more demand on the system, as Xcel Energy Spokesman Wes Reeves explains,

"We've had in some cases, 20 to 30 percent increases in the panhandle of demand on the electrical system, so it's really like anything you might have at your home, or your car, or anything like that - when you put more demand on it, it requires more investment."

Xcel is proposing a 7.3 percent increase, which translates to an extra $6.61 on the average bill. But the money raised will fund both new infrastructure and recent investments in the last two years.

"A lot of new investment was put in the ground at that time," says Reeves, "That would include power generation, transmission lines, new distribution lines, new substations:  everything it takes to deliver power reliably."

According to Xcel data, transmission systems are the lion's share of recent and future expansion - and much of that expansion is taking place locally.  In fact, in the last two years, Xcel has completed or launched about $30 million in transmission construction and investment in the Amarillo area.

The increase must be approved by the Public Utility Commission, and that decision could take months.  But in the likely case the rate hike is approved, it wouldn't take effect until next spring.

And even if and probably when the hike is tacked on to your bill, the consistently low price of natural gas means some bills will actually be lower than last years, even with the increase.

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