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9/4/2003

Xcel under microscope for outages

The Associated Press

DENVER — Colorado regulators have launched an informal inquiry into Xcel Energy’s recent power outages following an audit that found the company falsified records to hide service problems.

The state Public Utilities Commission is evaluating information from Xcel on equipment intended to reduce outages and how the company reports the length of power disruptions.

A report given to Montana regulators said the system for reporting outages was corrupt, making it nearly impossible “to show the magnitude of misstatement at Xcel.” Fraudwise of Fargo, N.D., released the 47-page report in August.

The utility can be fined if it fails to meet state standards for reliable service, including limits on the number and duration of non-storm-related power failures.

The company serves 1.2 million customers in Colorado and about 1.7 million in Minnesota.

Xcel officials have said they are committed to honest, ethical conduct and have replaced several transformers that contributed to the outages.

The company said outage data weren’t falsified in Colorado.

“We have gone through and described in detail how we account for the (outage) data, and we are confident of the quality of the data,” said Fred Stoffel, Xcel’s Denver-based vice president for policy development.

Company officials, though, have conceded Xcel has lost credibility with customers because of a series of outages. Many occurred during a March blizzard along the Front Range that was the largest in decades.

Xcel officials said in July that power outages in Colorado this year had averaged 200 minutes per customer, nearly double the level at which Xcel would be forced to pay an after-tax fine of $4.8 million.