Mayor Joe Gierlach, Nederland
Last week, Nederland Town Administrator Alisha Reis and I met with Area Manager for Xcel Craig Eicher, and Xcel Community Relations Director Robert Osborn, to discuss the recent power outages in the Greater Nederland Area. Because Xcel is a public utility, there are some constraints about what they are permitted to do, but within that framework, we were able to generate some ideas.
The following FAQ sheet was prepared by Xcel. They presented this information in more detail at the Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting on Tuesday, January 21 and they brought with them an Xcel Claims Representative to answer questions and file claims right at the Community Center.
Essentially, this month’s NederMayor blog is brought to you by Xcel Energy:
Xcel Energy is providing this list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to the residents and businesses of Nederland as a resource regarding the company’s power line renovation project, recent electric outages, customer relations and community outreach.
Why have we had so many power outages in Nederland?
Xcel Energy apologizes for the interruptions our Nederland customers have experienced in recent months. We know that our service is not only below your standards, it is below ours, too. We are working tirelessly to remedy the situation and have made significant progress. The power outages you have experienced have been due to a couple of key causes: the historic September flood; and various incidents and conditions related to a multi-year, multi-million-dollar project to rebuild and upgrade one of the main power lines that serves Nederland.
1. Flood: We will forever remember the historic flood in September. The entire Front Range was heavily impacted by days of steady rains, mudslides and washouts. While many miles of electric and gas lines were damaged, Xcel Energy responded by bringing in crews and contractors from across our system, who rebuilt our infrastructure safely and as quickly as possible.
The flood forced us to postpone several important construction projects, including the one to renovate a major power line serving Nederland.
2. Power Line Renovation Project: This project, which is nearing completion right now, replaced miles of power line and dozens of new power poles. The majority of the work was performed without turning off the power to our customers. However, there were two “planned” outages in early October when we used a helicopter to install new poles, and there were also numerous “unplanned” outages, which have extended the project’s completion and have been very disruptive to our Nederland customers.
In recent weeks, however, we have responded with additional resources and crews and are now scheduled, and on track, to complete the wire portion of the work by the end of the month.
Why did Xcel Energy choose to do this power line rebuild project during the time of year everyone knows is most windy?
The project, which began in early September, was planned to be complete by December. Delays from the flood and construction in challenging terrain delayed the project.
When will Xcel Energy complete this project and return to reliable service?
Our plan is to complete our line construction no later than January 31. After that, the poles and wires will be upgraded, stronger, and in their permanent configuration.
What is Xcel Energy going to do for Nederland customers who have suffered through all these power outages?
We recognize that the unreliability of our electric service has been, at the very least, a great inconvenience to you. We’ve heard from many Nederland residents who feel insecure in their homes not knowing if or when the power might go out. For others, this unreliability has caused monetary losses, such as damage to equipment or expenditures that you would not have otherwise incurred. We will help.
1. Bill Credit: As we stated Tuesday evening before the town’s Board of Trustees, Xcel Energy has initiated a process called the Quality of Service Plan (QSP). Under this plan, customers who are served by a power line which performs poorly (as set forth by specific metrics for number of outages over time) will receive an automatic bill credit of $50.
The good news is, Nederland customers don’t have to do or submit anything in order to qualify for this credit – our process automatically identifies the customers who are served by this feeder. If approved by the Public Utilities Commission, the credit would be paid in early summer.
2. Claims: Xcel Energy customers also have available to them compensation through our Claims Department, which covers the cost of financial losses incurred during outages that qualify for reimbursement.
How do I file a claim?
A company claims representative has been assigned to Nederland customers, who will investigate each outage and each claim, and respond in an appropriate manner. If you did not attend Tuesday’s trustee meeting and receive an application form, please call us at (303) 294-2828 and we’ll send one to you right away.
Is there anything else Xcel Energy will do for our community as a show of good faith?
Obviously, the prime focus right now is completing our power line renovation project as soon as possible so that the service to Nederland can once again be reliable for you. But, we have also been in discussions with Mayor Gierlach and your Town Administrator about ideas for how Xcel Energy can support some key community priorities, including your new performance space along Barker Reservoir, your annual July 4th festivities, and economic development. We recognize our service quality has negatively impacted the general community as well as individual customers.
In the future, what should I do if my power goes out? Just wait?
It’s natural to assume that the company knows immediately when your power goes out. In fact, we often don’t know exactly which customers are affected until customers call us at (800) 895-1999. We urge you to call us to report any power interruption to your home or business. This logs your meter in our system and ensures we will restore your service. More FAQs about outages are available at:
In general, electric customers understand that electric power is there for them most of the time and that, occasionally there will be interruptions. But we know the interruptions in Nederland have been far beyond the norm.
That is why we have dedicated additional crews to the construction project, assigned a claims representative to evaluate and pay for losses in Nederland, are working to provide a bill credit through our Quality of Service Plan, have stationed linemen in town 24 hours a day for more-rapid response, and are committing to quickly restore our service to a point at which no one even thinks about electricity – they just flip the switch and it’s dependably there.
That concludes our special message from Xcel Energy. Now back to our regularly scheduled NederMayor blog, which is already in progress…
I understand that Xcel is a large corporation operating in eight states. Craig had to get clearance from the highest levels of the company, approvals from a variety of departments, and comply with a host of Public Utilities Commission regulations, in order to make this presentation to our Board of Trustees. I appreciate the “behind the scenes” work that went into this.