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    Xcel Energy, the largest electric utility in Minnesota, recently reported it is still profitable, but that it isn't generating funds the way it used to, which could prompt the company to implement higher electricity rates to take care of mission-critical functions.

    According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Xcel reported a 17 percent jump in earnings per share for the third quarter of 2012, but said there is slack in demand for new electricity sales. This trend is expected to continue into the fourth quarter of 2012 and perhaps beyond.

    "We continue to forecast flat sales for 2012," Xcel's chief financial officer, Teresa Madden, recently told analysts on a conference call.

    So far in 2012, customers in Xcel's service area, which includes Minnesota and parts of North Dakota and South Dakota, have already seen a 0.3 percent drop in power sales. The company serves a total of 3.4 million electric customers across eight states.

    Xcel has been working to introduce cost-cutting measures throughout 2012, and has already implemented rate hikes in three states where it is active.

    As municipal utilities continue to raise electricity rates to cover a wide range of new costs, many customers in states with energy deregulation laws have looked for a retail energy provider with the best electricity rates and made the switch.