The state Public Utilities Commission is giving Xcel Energy customers in southern Minnesota the chance to comment on Xcel’s proposed $285-million rate hike. The utility has applied for a 10.7% electrical rate increase. The PUC has approved an interim hike of more than 9%. Xcel says it needs the increase for upgrades. The Commerce Department says Xcel overstates its costs and understates revenues. More than 1-million customers could get refunds if the state PUC grants a lower hike than the interim increase. A total of 7 statewide public hearings on the issue begin today (MON), with a hearing being held in Mankato at 7pm on March 18th at the Civic Center. Public comments may also be made online on the Minnesota PUC website. The commission is expected to rule on the rate hike by September.