- Years in the making, Xcel Energy filed on April 30 its first metrics-based performance report detailing the investor owned utility's work on a variety of fronts in Minnesota.
- The 28 metrics include affordability, through tracking the average monthly bill for a residential account, for example, and environmental performance, such as total carbon emissions, according to the "Perfomance Metrics Annual Report" that Xcel filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
- The new performance system was five years in the making, having been mandated by a bill passed in 2016 by Minnesota lawmakers that established a multi-year rate system for the utility.
Working with state regulators, as well as various stakeholder groups, from local officials to advocacy groups, Xcel began tracking 28 different performance metrics on Jan. 1, 2020. The report covers the entirety of 2020 through Dec. 31.
The metrics cover seven main areas: affordability, reliability, customer service quality, environmental performance, "cost effective alignment of generation and load," workforce and community development impact and stakeholder discussions.
The average monthly residential bill for the utility's rate payers, for example, is just over $88 a month, while more than 2,800 residential accounts have been terminated for nonpayment, according to Xcel.
Arrearages, or the amount in back payments owed to the utility, totaled more than $60.8 million during the last year, the report found.
The metrics developed by Xcel also track several reliability measures, including the percentage of customers experiencing long interruptions of more than 24 hours, as well as those hit by shorter disruptions or multiple disruptions.
Customer service metrics include the percentage of service center calls answered within 20 seconds — more than 85% — as well as 46,000 bills canceled due to human error.
While that sounds like a lot, it is out of a pool of more than 24 million invoices, which yields an accuracy rate of 99.9%, according to Xcel.
Total carbon emissions for 2020 amounted to more than 12.8 million tons, or 640 pounds per megawatt hour.
The utility also measured 54,519 tons carbon emissions were avoided last year through the growing use of electric vehicles and charging stations.
Overall, Xcel reports that it ranks in the top tiers of utilities in terms of customer satisfaction.
The utility ranks in the 69th percentile for overall customer satisfaction, according to Xcel, citing J.D. Power.
Xcel landed in the 83rd percentile, out of a pool of 55 investor-owned utilities, in power quality and reliability, in the 61st percentile in price, and in the 56th percentile in customer care.
The utility came in lower for billing and payment, landing in the 46th percentile, Xcel reports.
Allen Gleckner, lead director for clean electricity at Fresh Energy, an environmental advocacy group, said he is particularly interested in the development of metrics by Xcel to track load flexibility and shifting.
The utility is still hammering out exactly how to measure some of those metrics.
"A big thing we are focused on in this process was to get good metrics on load flexibility — just realizing that is going to be hugely important for reaching our goals of carbon reduction," he said.
Still, while there are interesting statistics in the report, the fact that it is the first year Xcel has begun measuring its performance in this way makes it difficult to track progress, since there aren't previous reports to compare to, Gleckner said.
"For future reports, we're excited to see how Xcel's progress on adding load flexibility translates to improvements in the broader metrics as well as more progress on workforce diversity efforts throughout the utility," he said.