- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin energy regulators have ordered Xcel Energy to refund $9.5 million in overpayments from 2015 to Wisconsin customers, but the move could mean higher rates next year.

The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported (http://bit.ly/29aLlf2 ) the state Public Service Commission issued the order on Thursday. The overpayments resulted largely from natural gas costing significantly less than the utility anticipated. Xcel notified the PSC in mid-March that its numbers for 2015 showed Wisconsin customers overpaid 7 percent per kilowatt hour, the difference between electric rates approved in advance and actual fuel costs.

The panel told the utility to return the money as quickly as possible as a one-time credit on customers’ monthly bills, PSC spokeswoman Elise Nelson said. Xcel officials, however, said they’re still putting the numbers together and aren’t sure how large a credit customers will receive or when they’ll see it.

The utility had planned to reduce its 2017 rate request to account for the overpayments. The company wants $17.4 million more from electric customers next year, which translates to $1.73 more on the average homeowner’s monthly bill. But in the wake of the PSC’s refund order, the utility will amend the request, resulting in an increase.

The commission is expected to decide on the request this fall.

Nelson defended the PSC’s refund decision, saying giving credits is more transparent for ratepayers. The commission also has ordered Madison Gas & Electric and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. to refund overpayments from 2015 due to lower-than-expected fuel costs.

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Information from: Leader-Telegram, http://www.leadertelegram.com/

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