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Thursday, February 4,2010

Xcel doesn't always tell customers when they're being cut loose

By Jefferson Dodge

On the evening of Jan. 12, the heat in Taylor Lindstrom’s Boulder home went out without warning.

She called Xcel Energy, and was told that, indeed, Xcel had turned off the electricity because the bill had not been paid.

Lindstrom, who thought she had been paying her Xcel bills, asked why she had not been notified of any overdue amount — or the pending disconnection, for that matter.

She was told by three separate Xcel representatives that she had, in fact, been notified.

In 2008. Possibly before she lived there.

* * *

On the phone with an Xcel representative that evening, Lindstrom lobbied to have her power reinstated, and Xcel reluctantly agreed. “I had to call several times and have several fights about whether it was my fault, just to get them out here,” she recalls.

But power wasn’t restored until 2 p.m. the next day. “I got all of the blankets in the house and bundled up in my winter gear,” she says of how she stayed warm that night.

It was about 17 degrees outside, which isn’t too bad for someone like Lindstrom, who endured four Chicago winters while attending college.

“It’s the middle of January,” Lindstrom says. “It could have been very cold. I could’ve been an 80-yearold woman.”

The fact that Xcel didn’t notify the residents of the house that electricity was to be shut off is a public safety issue, she says, because someone could go to sleep early, in a warm house, and then freeze to death in the night if the heat goes off.

When she lived in Chicago, she says, every winter there were newspaper articles about someone freezing to death because of heat being turned off, and she said the city’s utilities provider was vigilant about sending many advance notices of any pending disconnection and visiting homes 24 hours in advance to notify residents in person — or with a note on the door — that power would be cut off.

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