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Xcel rate hike rebuffed by judge

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An administrative law judge wants to limit Xcel Energy's proposed electricity rate hike to 4.7 percent, the utility said Monday.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Xcel said last week's recommendations by Administrative Law Judge Jeanne Cochran would amount to a $127 million rate increase — less than half of the original $285 million, or 10.7 percent, proposal Xcel made last November.

Xcel had since revised its request downward and was asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to grant a $209 million, or 7.8 percent, increase. The PUC is expected to rule on the case in September.

Xcel's electricity customers are already paying for an approximately 9 percent rate increase in the interim, but they will likely be offered refunds plus interest when the PUC issues a final decision.

Xcel has said the rate hike is needed to pay for upgrades to its power plants, especially its two nuclear plants. But state officials have been skeptical of the utility's rate request.

The state Department of Commerce has recommended a $99 million rate increase, saying Xcel should cut millions of dollars worth of bonuses for executives and flights on corporate jets. Xcel officials have said the compensation helps attract top talent.