PUC modernized to maximize benefits for ratepayers in the clean energy transition
(May 3) – The House approved a bill to renew the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for the next seven years, help address the threat of climate change, and hold utility companies more accountable. The bill is sponsored by Speaker KC Becker and Rep. Chris Hansen. The PUC provides regulatory oversight of public utilities in Colorado.
“Passing this modernization will strengthen protections for consumers, prioritize safety, reduce emissions, and improve efficiency and reliability while exploring various forms of grid interconnection,” said Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder. “The bill requires utilities to account for the social cost of carbon in their electricity resource planning and to do a review of workforce transition plans when the closure of coal plants is accelerated in order to ensure workers and communities are supported.”
The bill directs the Commission to evaluate the cost of carbon pollution emissions when considering projects in the future. Carbon pollution impacts Colorado’s air quality and exacerbates the risks of climate change in the state and around the world.
“This legislation modernizes the PUC and ensures it’s prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the thriving clean energy economy. This bill is a significant step forward for Colorado,” said Rep. Hansen, D-Denver. “The Commission plays a pivotal environmental role and must be ready to serve all Coloradans as the market moves toward cleaner, cheaper renewable energy sources.”
The PUC is responsible for providing oversight of Colorado’s utilities and protecting Coloradans from high utility costs. In seeking to address climate change, SB19-236 will direct the PUC to consider the costs of pollution and a workforce transition plan during the utility planning process. The bill also directs the PUC to implement rules ensuring safe, reliable, and affordable services that satisfy customers’ changing expectations, and take advantage of technological advancements that benefit customers.
The bill specifies a minimum value for the cost of carbon pollution. Currently, nine other states employ a cost of carbon as an element of utility regulation including Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, California, Nevada, New Jersey and New York.
SB19-236 passed the House floor with a vote of 40-24 after Senate approved amendments added in the House. It now goes to the Governor for signature.