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PUC hears public comment in investigation into deliberate Xcel Energy power shutoffs

Customers give feedback to Xcel Energy after power outages during wind event
Customers give feedback to Xcel Energy after power outages during wind event 02:37

Earlier this month, nearly 200,000 Coloradans lost power during a high wind event. While the majority of losses were due to damage caused by those winds, about 55,000 customers had their power lines intentionally de-energized by the utility.

While intentional shutoffs like this are commonly used to mitigate fire risk in California, it's the first time the "Public Safety Power Shutoff" has been used in Colorado. 

Now, the Public Utilities Commission is investigating how Xcel Energy handled that outage and soliciting feedback from customers during public comment in their Wednesday meeting.

Many of the 55,000 customers impacted are asking questions. 

"Why wasn't Xcel directly working with communities like ours to develop a shared plan for how to execute the shutoff? Why weren't steps taken to work with us to protect our critical infrastructure?" asked Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett.

Customers and local governments say they weren't given enough notice by Xcel Energy and are upset about a lack of communication.

"Other than a low-resolution map, no specifics were given on the extent of expected customer impacts, and we only had 5 hours to prepare to support our community," said Brockett.

"I was not given any warning about the power outage," said restaurant owner Hosea Rosenberg.

Business owners cite major monetary losses, and the incident lead to food waste for those who weren't warned.


"We have between $50,000 and $60,000 worth of food inventory in this building. I have 100 employees. It's my livelihood, my employees' livelihood and obviously a lot of food that should not go to waste," said Rosenberg.

While those with medical conditions who depend on electricity say earlier notice could be lifesaving.

"Two of my good friends and colleagues today could have been seriously injured or could have died due to Xcel's shutdown the first week of April," said Amy Petre Hill with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.

Xcel Energy said it has learned from the incident and plan to improve communication and interactive maps.

Shutoffs happened April 6, and Xcel Energy completed power restoration by the 9, replacing more than 50 power poles. 

Xcel Energy said it believes the preemptive shutoff prevented wildfires.

Many customers agree the shut-offs were the right choice but want more warning and transparency.

"All I ask is that if this ever happens again in a planned way that we get information," said Rosenberg.

If you didn't get notice about the planned shutoff, Xcel Energy recommends updating your notification preferences on the My Xcel Energy mobile app or by calling Customer Care at 1-800-895-1999.

Public comment is still going on and will last until 7 Wednesday night. If you'd like to share feedback or visit Colorado's Department Regulatory Agencies Zoom link to register and join. 

Comments can also be emailed to the PUC after the fact.

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