October 3, 2019

 

Denver, CO — The Investor-Owned Utility Review Interim Study Committee today convened for their final meeting to investigate rates, reliability, and energy choice.

“We convened this committee because we did not have a full picture as to why people in some parts of Colorado, particularly Pueblo, pay some of the highest utility rates in the country. We were finally able to get some insight as to why we pay so much this interim by bringing everyone to the table –  elected officials, businesses, advocates, consumers, and IOUs,” said President Garcia.

The two committee hearings consisted of several presentations and panel discussions from the Colorado Energy Office. the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and Colorado’s Investor-Owned Utilities including Black Hills Energy and Xcel Energy.

To illustrate the issue of high energy costs, the committee was presented with the energy bill costs over a two year period for a 1,231 sqft townhome in Breckenridge. The ratepayer for the townhome paid nearly 62 percent more to Black Hills Energy than to Xcel Energy over a two year period. The rate per kwh is actually 77 percent higher.

“This interim committee is so critical because we need to make sure that we’re putting Coloradans over profits,” said Senator Rodriguez. “That means holding investor-owned utility companies accountable for outrageous utility costs, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

The committee voted to move forward with three bills that will address astronomical utility costs in some Colorado communities including:

  • A bill, drafted at the request of President Garcia, that increases ratepayer protections by directing the PUC to collect information from regulated public utilities, open rule-making proceedings, and require an “opt-in” by customers before a public utility may employ a nonstandard rate such as time-of-use, inverted block, or flat rate by September 1, 2020.
    • The collected information includes:
      • The number of utility customers who are exempted from tiered rates due to a medical condition or use of medical equipment requiring higher amounts of electricity than other customers, and the efforts the public utilities are taking to ensure that customers entitled to exemptions are able to do so.
      • Disconnections and delinquencies, including the number of disconnections and a narrative analysis of any trends or inconsistencies revealed by the data.
    • The PUC is directed to open rule-making proceedings to:
      • Prescribe standard practices for disconnection due to nonpayment, including the provision of shutoff notices in languages other than English;
      • Standardize terms for repayment plans to cure delinquencies;
      • Prohibit remote disconnection without a personal visit or live telephone call with the customer of record; and
      • Investigate whether to require public utilities to report positive information about customers’ payment history to credit reporting agencies.
  • A bill, drafted at the request of Representative Chris Kennedy, that ensures consistent funding of energy efficiency improvement programs by requiring there is at least $1.5 million in the low-income energy assistance fund. The bill does so by establishing a formula by which the General Assembly will authorize the State Treasurer to transfer money from the general fund to the Colorado Energy Office’s low-income energy assistance fund.
  • A bill, drafted at the request of Representative Eddie Hooton, that declares the concept of “community choice energy” (CCE), under which a community may choose to purchase electricity at wholesale through a supplier other than the local investor-owned electric utility, has the potential to enable communities to meet their renewable energy goals and save money without disrupting the local utility’s current status as sole supplier of transmission, distribution, and customer service functions. The bill proposes two studies to lay the groundwork for potential adoption of CCE in Colorado. Those results would be presented in late 2020 to legislative committees with jurisdiction over energy matters.
    • The two studies are:
      • A feasibility study, conducted by an independent energy expert under the guidance of the PUC, to examine the financial and technical requirements that would need to be met for CCE to be viable and beneficial; and
      •  An investigatory proceeding at the PUC, inviting testimony and documentation from persons with firsthand knowledge of utility operations, CCEE, or both. The goal of the investigation is to identify best practices and recommend legislative changes that would allow CCE to function well in Colorado, if adopted.

“I am confident that with the information we examined and the legislation we have put forward will bring needed relief to the ratepayers who are getting squeezed,” added President Garica.

“It is unacceptable that we pay the highest rates and breathe the dirtiest air. Our communities are increasingly frustrated with the negative impacts of energy production on our health and economy. I am grateful to have been able to represent my community on this committee and be part of this process which has helped us understand the policy implications and difficulties regulating investor-owned utilities,” said Anne Stattelman of Pueblo, one of the  non-legislative, non-voting committee members with experience in the space.

“Our communities are hurting, our health is hurting, and our economy is hurting,” said Terry Hart, Pueblo County Commissioner District 1 and one of the non-legislative, non-voting committee members with experience in the space. “I am very grateful to have been asked to represent my community and be a part of this committee tasked with finding solutions. We’ve analyzed our ancient regulatory structure in Colorado and learned about various options employed in other states to get electricity to people. It is clear that the only way we can modernize here in Colorado is through the legislative changes this committee will pass.”

The committee consists of six members of the General Assembly: three Senators, two selected by the Senate President and one selected by the Senate Minority Leader, and three Representatives, two selected by the House Speaker and one selected by the House Minority Leader. The legislative members of the committee include: Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo), Chair; Representative Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood), Vice Chair; Senator Robert Rodriguez (D-Denver); Senator Dennis Hisey (R-Fountain); Representative Edie Hooten (D-Boulder); and Representative Tim Geitner (R-Falcon). The committee also leverages the expertise of eight non-legislative, non-voting individuals with experience in the space.

To listen to the full committee hearing and review all documentation presented to the committee, please visit: https://leg.colorado.gov/committee/granicus/1650706.

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