DENVER (CBS4) - When Vicki Kelley of Denver opened her January Xcel Energy bill, her first thought was there must have been a mistake. At $400, it was about 1/3 more than what it would normally be.
"I did a quadruple take," said Kelley.
She is not alone. Xcel customers are seeing bills 37% higher than normal due to spiking natural gas prices, according to the utility. It will soon get even more challenging as deferred rate increases will hit next month adding another 14% to residential bills.
"We understand that the price increases right now are difficult," said Hollie Velasquez Horvath, Xcel's Regional Vice President of State Affairs and Community Relations. "This is a huge impact to our customers."
Xcel said the current spike in bills is due to the cost of natural gas and supply and demand pressures. Xcel maintains it buys natural gas at wholesale prices, and it is passed along to customers with no markup. What's being seen in Colorado mirrors what is happening nationwide, said Xcel.
The utility serves about 1.3 million customers in Colorado.
Velasquez Horvath said the increased bills have led to a higher volume of calls to Xcel with Colorado customers seeking information about their higher bills.
"We're seeing a lot of calls," she said. "Our call lines have increased."
She said company operators can answer questions about payment plans and what types of financial relief might be available for customers struggling to pay their heating bills, but there may even be more calls next month as another round of price hikes are coming.
In 2020 Xcel was granted approval for a rate increase, but due to the pandemic, the company deferred those increases in what is known as a Rate Deferral Surcharge(RDS). They will be kicking in with March bills which will increase by another 14%. That same increase will appear on 2022 bills in April, May, September and October.
Those "shoulder" months in the spring and fall were chosen because bills are typically lower between the winter heating and summer cooling seasons.
Vicki Kelley told CBS4 said the extra $100 per month on her Xcel bill hurts, especially with two kids in college.
"It has a big impact," she said, equating to nearly an entire grocery store bill for her and her husband. "We need heat and power so we're going to have to pay whatever bill comes next in the mail," she said.
- If you have questions about your Xcel bill, you can call the company at 1-800-895-4999
- You can also call the LEAP Heat Help line at 1-866-HEAT-HELP(1-866-432-8435)
- Xcel also recommends lowering your thermostat to 68 degrees to help save
- Adjust your programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature
while you are away or asleep
- During daylight hours, open curtains and blinds to maximize heat from direct sunlight. To retain heat, keep them closed when it is dark
- Run ceiling fans in a clockwise direction to push warm air down from the ceiling
- Keep interior doors open to help circulate air more freely and maintain constant heating levels
for more features.