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      Xcel Energy set to drain electricity bills

      Good news! Electricity bills will soon be lowered, according to power company Xcel Energy.

      Xcel said it has gained approval from the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to lower typical Texas residential bills of 1,000 kilowatt-hours by $3.53. That averages to 3.7 percent.

      The lower costs are set to begin April 1 but savings will be noticed even more when the summer rates take affect. According to Xcel, a typical residential bill of 1,000 kilowatt-hours will be cut by $4.81 or 4.5 percent.

      "Our customers are benefitting from the lower cost of natural gas and from significant investments we have made, and are making, throughout our system," said Riley Hill, president and CEO of Southwestern Public Service Company, an Xcel Energy company.

      A winter savings of $1.78 was originally sought by Xcel Energy when it first filed for a new fuel-cost factor back in January. As the price of natural gas continues to fall, Xcel said it was able to revise its projected fuel costs downward.

      "These significant up-front investments are critical to hold down costs over time," Hill said. "Included are environmental controls, efficient power plants, an upgraded distribution system and new high-voltage transmission lines to tap additional supplies of low-cost power outside our area."

      Nearly 40 percent of the energy used in Texas by Xcel Energy customers comes from natural gas-fueled power plants. The lower bills, Xcel said, are a result of the decreases in natural gas used to fuel local power plants.

      In 2008 Xcel said it started to buy power from the Hobbs Generating Station near Hobbs, N.M. That station is 40 percent more efficient than the older natural gas-fueled plants. Xcel also opened a more efficient natural gas-fueled generating unit near Lubbock last year.

      Additionally, the increase in demand for electricity, according to Xcel, is being partially offset by natural gas generators' efficiency.