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Coverage of energy that moves beyond polarized arguments and emotional debate to explore the points of tension, the tradeoffs and opportunities, and the very human consequences of energy policy, production, use and innovation.Inside Energy is a collaboration of seven public media outlets in the nation's energy epicenter: Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota.

XCEL Proposing $500 Million Electric Grid Upgrade

Courtesy of Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest power provider, wants to make $500 million to install smart meters and make other upgrades to its electricity system to improve reliability and give customers more information about their energy use.The utility filed information about its Advanced Grid Intelligence and Security proposal this week with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

For the utility, the proposal would improve the efficiency of the grid and optimize voltage to prevent losing electricity along power lines. For customers, smart meters will allow tracking of electricity use in 15-minute increments, rather than just once per month, and will better integrate with devices like private solar panels, storage batteries or electric vehicles.

“We recognize the fact that our customers and our communities are asking for more control in the energy they are consuming,” said Xcel Regional Vice President Alice Jackson. “They want to be able to embrace these technological advancements.”

Smart meters would also allow the utility to better respond to outages.

“We literally still today have to wait for multiple customers to call and say ‘hey, I’m out of service’ before we can pinpoint exactly where we need to roll our trucks to to fix the problem,” Jackson said, adding the new network of smart meters would alert the utility to the location of an outage.

Jackson said if approved, the project would not start rolling out between 2018  and 2021. She said the utility does not yet have an estimate for how the $500 million price tag will change customers’ bills. But, an estimate in the utility’s application predicts the project would result in cost savings for customers by 2024.

The proposal is part of a larger strategy the utility unveiled in January called “Our Energy Future,” which includes an application to build Colorado’s largest wind farm, a $1 billion, 300-turbine project in the eastern part of the state.

Dan Boyce moved to the Inside Energy team at Rocky Mountain PBS in 2014, after five years of television and radio reporting in his home state of Montana. In his most recent role as Montana Public Radio’s Capitol Bureau Chief, Dan produced daily stories on state politics and government.
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