DENVER, CO – The House Finance Committee yesterday passed legislation to save Coloradans money on their energy bills and improve pricing stability to prevent unpredictable rate spikes in the future. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Chris deGruy Kennedy and Matthew Martinez, would increase transparency and accountability of utility companies before the Public Utilities Commission.
“After convening with policy experts, consumer advocates, and utility companies to uncover what is leading to rising utility rates, we’re moving a solution forward that will save families money on their utility bills,” said Joint Select Committee Vice Chair Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy, D-Lakewood. “This bill works to create a fairer utility rate setting process so Colordans are not stuck with unexpected, high utility bills. Ratepayers’ interests should be prioritized, and this legislation would improve utility accountability and transparency to keep Coloradans’ concerns and wallets top of mind.”
“The Joint Select Committee has been hard at work identifying real solutions to tackle high utility bills that have been impacting hardworking families all winter,” said Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista. “Our legislation will create a pathway toward long-term, cost-saving solutions that will increase rate transparency and save Coloradans money. This legislation also works to protect ratepayers from having to cover the costs of lobbying, advertising and other expenses that utilities pass on to consumers.”
SB23-291, which passed the House Finance Committee by a vote of 6 to 4, presents a package of reforms to lower utility bills now and in the future. It rebalances the kind of expenses paid by utility shareholders versus ratepayers, aligns incentives on fuel costs, and levels the playing field at Public Utilities Commission (PUC) proceedings, where costly infrastructure plans are proposed and approved.
The bill would limit utility expenses that can be paid by ratepayers, such as lobbying and advertising, which would be more appropriately paid by company shareholders. It would also create a cost-sharing mechanism to incentivize utilities to save their customers money on fuel costs, and allow the PUC to set a maximum monthly fuel cost to smooth out monthly bills and avoid sudden price shocks.
Additionally, the bill would require utilities to report more detailed justification for their plans when they request a rate increase, which will help regulators and watchdogs make sure proposed investments are truly in the public interest. In addition, the bill empowers the PUC to reduce utilities’ ability to charge consumers for expensive consultants and lawyers that argue on behalf of rate increases.