Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is a "smart grid"?

Smart grid technologies are transforming today’s traditional power delivery system into a digital, interconnected, modernized network. These upgrades create new ways for utilities and customers to work together to manage energy usage, save money and help the environment while improving reliability.

Why are utilities investing in smart grid technology?

Until recently, the electricity grid hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years. Today’s customer needs are growing faster than the current grid can handle. If utilities don’t expand capacity to keep up with a projected increase in demand of 40 percent over the next 25 years, the nation could see healthy grids become increasingly less reliable. By modernizing our energy delivery system, Xcel Energy can make its vision of a clean energy future a reality and ensure that the grid continues to serve us well into the next century.

What is "SmartGridCity"?

SmartGridCity, in Boulder, Colo., is a fully integrated smart grid community with what is possibly the densest concentration of these emerging technologies to date. It is a comprehensive system that includes a digital, high-speed broadband communication system; upgraded substations, feeders and transformers; smart meters; and Web-based tools available through My Account. Customers that live in this area are now among the first in the world to enjoy a system using smart grid technology to deliver its electricity. Visit the Technology Overview for more information.

What does SmartGridCity do for me?

Boulder residents are already seeing benefits from smart grid technology:

  • Power is more reliable, with less chance of an outage.
  • The electric grid is monitored in real-time, allowing Xcel Energy to predict equipment failure and proactively make necessary repairs before an outage occurs. To date, a number of potentially long-term outages have already been averted.
  • In the event of an outage , power can be restored more quickly as Smart Grid technology allows us to monitor customer meters and diagnose individual outages.
  • More than 20,000 customers in Boulder have a window into energy use through My Account, to learn more and take action to conserve and save on your monthly bills.

What can SmartGridCity customers expect next?

Customers can expect to hear more news on trial programs in 2011 and 2012, including: In-Home device technology evaluation, conservation education, Pricing Plan participant results, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle road tests, and added Web tools and special My Account features designed for Boulder residents. Watch this site for updates as they become available.

What is the SmartGridCity In-Home device?

An in-home smart device is a wireless smart thermostat or thermostat relay and home control system that allows customers to monitor and control thermostat settings from home, the office or anywhere they have Internet Access.

Top


Smart Meter Questions

What is a smart meter?

Traditional meters can only provide one-way information and must be read in person by a meter reader. Smart meters are digital meters that offer two-way, near real-time communication, allowing for more interactivity between you and your utility company. In addition, Smart Meters:

  • Can increase the reliability of your electricity service and provide more insight into your energy use
  • Can deliver up-to-date information about your home energy use patterns
  • Are in constant communication with Xcel Energy, which enables responsive reactions to outages and faster service restoration

What does a smart meter allow me to do?

Smart meters are just one part of the smart grid system, but are an important piece when it comes to realizing the benefits of a digitally enhanced grid. Smart meters are tools that can help customers make more informed energy choices by tracking energy use by the month, day, or even in 15-minute intervals. For customers that have chosen to participate in SmartGridCity programs and services, smart meters will be an essential device for monitoring and managing energy usage.

What is Broadband Over Powerlines (BPL)?

SmartGridCity utilizes Broadband Over Powerline, or BPL, technology. BPL uses existing electrical wires to provide digital communications capabilities and create a multi-directional, high-speed communication network.

What is the frequency of BPL?

The SmartGridCity network uses fiber optics and BPL technologies, which are both wire-based. The radio strength of the BPL signal is limited by federal regulations and is comparable to common household devices such as digital clocks and CD players. In isolated instances, Xcel Energy may also be deploying wireless equipment to extend the network. In these cases, the wireless equipment uses standard cell phone technology and frequencies.

How can I tell if I have a smart meter?

Smart meters in Boulder have a digital readout and a faceplate marked with the names “Current,” and “Xcel Energy” on the front. The meters are manufactured by Landis + Gyr, which is also noted on the bottom of the faceplate. View an example. Customers can also call our customer service representatives at 1-866-235-6881 to determine whether a smart meter has been installed on their home.

Who can I contact with questions not answered here?

Need more information? Contact our SmartGridCity customer service representatives at 1-877-887-3339 or smartgridcity@xcelenergy.com.

Top


My Account Questions

Who can use My Account?

If you are an Xcel Energy customer in Colorado, you can register for My Account.

Is there a fee to use My Account?

There is no charge to use the My Account website.

What do I need to sign up for My Account?

To get started, please have your utility bill statement ready and go to the My Account website and click the “Register Now” button. After registration, you will receive an activation e-mail for completing the registration process. If you need assistance, please call us at 1-866-235-6881.

Where do I find my account number on my bill?

Your account number can be located in various place on your bill.

  • Near the top on the right-hand side near the due date and balance due.
  • On the bottom, detachable portion of the bill
  • Just above the due date and balance due.

What am I able to do with My Account?

My Account provides:

  • Xcel Energy billing and payment history
  • The ability to track past electricity usage
  • Automatic and paperless billing options
  • Energy conservation tips
  • Smart meter customers can track electricity use in daily, hourly, or 15-minute intervals (up to the most recent 15 minutes).

I have a smart meter. How can I see my 15-minute interval data on My Account?

  1. From the My Account “Welcome” screen, click on “Account Overview” at the top-left. Select the address for the account you’d like to view.
  2. In the Premises box, select the “Overview” tab. Then click the drop-down menu next to “Last 24 Months” and change it to the “Hourly” view.
  3. Select the specific date on the calendar and the timeframes you’d like to view. Finally, click “Accept.”
  4. Note: The current day’s usage is shown in a maroon color. The 15-minute interval is now showing in near real time and is updated every 15 minutes.

Top


Pricing Plan Questions

What are my current Xcel Energy electricity rates?

A new electric Tiered Rate structure began in June of 2010 for all Xcel Energy customers in Colorado. It was created to encourage electricity reduction during peak consumption months from June 1st through September 30th. During these months, Xcel customers pay 5 cents per kilowatt hour under 500 kilowatt hours and 9 cents per kilowatt over 500 kilowatt hours. Customers can view how many kilowatt hours are used monthly by signing up My Account.

What are the benefits of Pricing Plans? How does it make a difference?

The Pricing Plan Pilot is no longer accecpting enrollments so that we can move into the evaluation phase. Our intention with this pilot is learn more about ways to:

  • Provide more choices of how much you pay for electricity giving you more control to lower costs
  • Avoid the need to bring additional power plants and generation stations on line to meet energy demand, which can be costly and further increase carbon emissions
  • Reduce our impact on the environment
  • Keep the costs of electricity generation lower
  • Minimize outages due to excessive power demands

What is the Pricing Plan program length?

Pricing Plans are currently scheduled to remain in effect through September 30, 2013. As this is a pilot program, Xcel Energy will be reviewing the program for potential rate extension and program expansion.

Can I cancel my participation in a Pricing Plan?

Customers that wish to discuss cancelling their Pricing Plan should call the SmartGridCity Hotline at 877-887-3339.

How does critical peak demand of electricity affect the environment and energy prices? What are On Peak times?

Throughout certain times of the day, generally between 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on weekdays, electricity usage is much higher. During these times of high demand, known as On Peak, the strain on the electricity generation system is greatly increased, air emissions increase, and the cost to produce electricity is higher. Off Peak times, are the rest of the hours that are not On Peak times.

What is a "Peak Energy Event"?

A Peak Energy Event will typically occur when energy demand on the system is much higher than normal. Participants in the Peak Plus Plan or Reduce-Your-Use Rebate, will want to reduce as much electricity use as possible during a Peak Energy Event to gain maximum savings. Peak Energy Events will occur at a minimum of 13 and a maximum of 15 times per calendar year and participants will be informed of these events in advance (via preferred choice of phone or e-mail).

How is a Peak Energy Event determined?

A Peak Energy Event will be called based upon factors such as temperature forecasts and anticipated customer use of electricity. Peak Energy Events will be announced a day in advance so participants in the Reduce-Your-Use Rebate and Peak Plus Pricing Plans have an opportunity to modify their electricity use. To avoid confusion, once we've announced a Peak Energy Event, it won't be retracted. You'll be notified in advance of an event according to the method you've told us works best for you--either a telephone call or an email.

Can I opt out of a Peak Energy Event?

Peak Energy Events are a system-wide occurrence and may not be customized per individual household and as a result, customers may not opt out of a Peak Energy Event. These events occur a minimum of 13 and a maximum amount of 15 times per calendar year.

What are summer vs. non-summer months?

Summer months are from June 1st through September 30th. Non-summer months run from October 1st through May 31st.

How are the rates calculated?

All electricity charges shown in the SmartGridCity Pricing Plan Comparison Chart are base rates only and do not include additional riders, taxes and adjustments. Riders make up approximately 40% of your energy cost. In addition, all plans are charged a $6.75 per month Service & Facilities charge. Electricity prices are rounded to the nearest penny.

How are rebates calculated?

A baseline calculation is determined by capturing the kWh usage from the previous 10 business days, during the 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. timeframe (excluding holidays and previously declared peak event days). Next, kilowatt hour data from the 5 highest days is identified and from this information a daily average is calculated, creating the baseline. Credits are earned based on the kWh reduction from the baseline and are applied to the current month's bill.

How much can I save?

The amount of savings is driven by customer choice and shifting energy usage. Shifting usage away from On Peak times (2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. weekdays) to Off Peak times (8:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. weekdays, weekends & holidays) will help reduce costs. Participating in a plan with Peak Energy Events can also help lower costs of electricity.

How can I track my usage?

Sign up for My Account and smart meter information is automatically displayed. This provides a view of detailed electricity use to make decisions about usage patterns which may further reduce energy consumption, and may lesson carbon emissions.

Where can I find more energy savings tips?

Visit xcelenergy.com/infosmart to view tools, energy calculators and tips to help you learn ways to be more efficient and conserve energy.

Top


In-Home Smart Device Questions

What is an In-Home Smart Device (IHSD)?

In-Home smart devices are one of the “customer-facing” components of the smart grid. Smart devices in your home can provide you with tools to better manage monitor and control your electricity usage.

What is the current status of the IHSD pilot in SmartGridCity?

Currently Xcel Energy is looking for qualified customers to participate in the Boulder area. Customers must have or meet the following:

  • A smart meter and/or be enrolled in our Pricing Pilot (either the Shift and Save, Peak Time Rebate or Peak Plus Plan)
  • Central Air Conditioning in good working order
  • WI-fi Internet access
  • Read and agree to the pilot Terms and Conditions

Interested customers should contact the Xcel Energy SmartGridCity Hotline at 877-887-3339.

What In-Home Devices will I receive?

Participants will receive at no charge: a HOME BASE display, a Honeywell Wireless Thermostat, two Appliance Sockets, and a Wireless CT sensor.

HOME BASE display features:

  • Schedule At Home, Away, and Goodnight modes for your thermostat and sockets.
  • Access information about your home energy use
  • Control your thermostat and appliances connected to your sockets
  • Automatically adjusts your heating and cooling set point on your thermostat.

Honeywell Wireless Thermostat features:

  • Replaces your existing thermostat to control heating and air conditioning
  • Connects wirelessly to your HOME BASE

Appliance Socket features:

  • Plugs into any 120 volt outlet (15 amps maximum load capacity)
  • Provides electricity and control for any appliance or device you choose to plug in.
  • Connects wirelessly to your HOME BASE

Wireless CT sensor features:

  • Installed near your electricity meter or main electrical panel
  • Sends real-time electricity use data to your HOME BASE

How do In-Home Devices help with energy use?

In-Home Devices let you do more with your energy conservation efforts. They can help you:

  • See and understand your energy use in real time.
  • Monitor electricity use to identify when you use the most energy.
  • Track your home’s carbon footprint.
  • Watch for energy use trends and patterns, while measuring your improvements

What is the In-Home Device program length?

This pilot program is expected to run until September 30, 2013.

Can I cancel my In-Home Device participation?

Customers participating in the In-Home Device pilot must agree to enroll for a minimum of one year. After the conclusion of one year, participation will be month-to-month until the program ends on September 30, 2013.

I understand my In-Home Devices installed in my home are free and mine to keep and use after the pilot program has ended. Will I incur any fees if I continue to use my In-Home Devices after the pilot?

While the devices are yours to keep, the In-Home Device web portal access will not be available after the pilot program is over. Prior to the conclusion of the pilot, Xcel Energy will work with EnergyHub to develop options for pilot participants. Fees may apply for customers opting to maintain access to the web portal once the pilot has ended.

What is the In-Home Device (IHD) Web Portal?

The IHD web portal allows customers to view energy use in real time and make changes to their thermostat and sockets connected to appliances in their home. Much of the functionality available to customers using their Home Base is also available at the IHD web portal. Customers can access and use the IHD portal anywhere they have Internet access, giving them greater flexibility to monitor and manage their energy use.

Top