Regulators end Xcel power shutoff investigation with no changes


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A PUC staff attorney cut short a conversation about policy changes as state regulators close the investigation in Xcel’s April 6 power shutoff.

DENVER — The investigation by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) into Xcel Energy’s purposeful power shutoff is complete, and the PUC commissioners made no policy changes.

Following Xcel’s first Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) on April 6, the PUC opened an investigation to look into what happened and what could change in the future.

During Wednesday’s weekly PUC meeting, the commission was supposed to close the proceeding and issue a decision based on information learned.

“I want to just assure that those who submitted their comments, and I think we received over 700 comments, that those will all be considered as we go forward as we discuss this future plan,” PUC Commissioner Tom Plant said.

Chairman Eric Blank listed eight questions he wanted utility companies to answer.

They ranged from wondering if businesses and emergency operations managers could help spread the message of a PSPS, to asking if detailed outage maps could be provided before the outage takes place, to wondering if sensors or other technology could be used to repair power lines more quickly without requiring a utility worker to visually inspect the line.

“For me, these are some of the core questions that need to be answered by the utilities and other stakeholders as we move to the next phase of this process,” Blank said.

“With your questions, chairman, what’s your vision to what happens with those questions? I mean, we’re closing the proceeding, so they don’t get answered here. They’re somewhat rhetorical,” PUC Commissioner Megan Gilman said.

It was at this point in the meeting that the attorney advising the PUC on this issue basically ended the idea that commissioners could change anything.

“There’s going to be a closely related proceeding filed soon that will give you the opportunity to delve deeper into these issues in a full adjudicatory capacity,” PUC attorney Paul Gomez said.

Xcel will file its new wildfire mitigation plan in a few weeks. The commissioners were advised to not talk about solutions until that plan is submitted, in a different proceeding.

Commissioner Megan Gilman was visibly annoyed.

“Yup, we’ll have to take it up when the proceeding starts to make sure all the issues of our interest are addressed. I wish they could hear them here today, but it doesn’t sound like they can, so it might be a surprise to them in the next hearing,” Gilman said.

At an unrelated bill signing in Arapahoe County, Next with Kyle Clark asked Gov. Jared Polis (D) if the PUC reaching no conclusion is what he expected when the commission opened an investigation.

“No, I’d like them to move quickly,” Polis said.

He brought up his letter to Xcel from April 9, that started, “I share the disappointment and frustration of many fellow Coloradans who were and continue to be impacted by Xcel Energy Colorado’s decision to proactively de-energize parts of the electric system in anticipation of a significant wind storm the weekend of April 6, 2024.”

That letter also called for “PUC emergency regulatory action,” where the PUC could “consider adopting emergency rules.”

Rules that, perhaps, could have been put in place on Wednesday.

“The wildfire mitigation plan is something that the PUC should, of course, do, but it’s a much slower process that, I understand, is a 6-to-12-month process before that’s finalized. They should move forward around these planned outages as quickly as they possibly can to make sure that they get some basic protection for consumers in place,” Polis said.

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Next with Kyle Clark

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Regulators end Xcel power shutoff investigation with no changes

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