Xcel Energy proposes $1.9B wildfire mitigation plan in Colorado as risk areas nearly double

The plan would raise a typical residential bill by more than 9.5%, but “doing more to mitigate wildfire risk requires substantial investment,” the utility told regulators.
  • Xcel Energy on Thursday filed a $1.9 billion wildfire mitigation plan with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that includes adding hundreds of weather stations near power lines, updating pole and equipment inspection schedules in high-risk areas, and expanding its vegetation management program.
  • If the plan is approved, incremental bi-annual changes would increase a typical residential bill approximately 9.56%, or almost $9 per month, by 2028.
  • Xcel has been named in almost 300 lawsuits in Colorado alleging its power lines helped spark the Marshall fire which started in 2021 and caused more than $2 billion in damages. Xcel’s Southwestern Public Service also faces lawsuits in connection with the Smokehouse Creek Fire in the Texas Panhandle this year.

Wildfire risk has increased since Xcel filed its first wildfire mitigation plan in 2020, the utility told Colorado regulators.

“Doing more to mitigate wildfire risk requires substantial investment,” the utility said in its application. “Three of the five largest fires in Colorado history occurred in just the last five years, and Colorado endured two of the most destructive fires in that same time period.”

Based on the utility’s updated risk mapping, “the geographic areas of moderate to high risk in the Company’s service and facilities footprint have nearly doubled since the 2020 WMP.”

Wildfires are a growing risk for utilities, particularly as extreme heat and drought increase, and are making it more difficult for them to procure liability insurance. In 2019, Pacific Gas & Electric filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after fires caused by its powerlines burned hundreds of thousands of acres in Northern California and led to more than 100 deaths.

Keep reading at Utility Dive

Check out more articles on wildfire mitigation for utilities from T&D World. We also have some insights for lineman safety and preparedness around wildfires.

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