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March 7, 2023

JOINT RELEASE: Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates Holds First Meeting to Investigate High Energy Prices

DENVER, CO – Members of the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates held their first meeting today to explore the underlying causes of recent spikes in energy prices and to begin identifying strategies that can save Coloradans money on their utility bills.

Committee members heard testimony and asked questions of panels of experts representing the Public Utilities Commission, the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate, the Colorado Energy Office, and Energy Outreach Colorado to better understand the factors that influence how rates are set and how those mechanisms lead to higher costs for Coloradans.

“Recent spikes in energy prices have hit Colorado families hard, and today’s hearing highlighted just how fraught certain aspects of our current regulatory structure are,” Joint Select Committee Chair Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said. “We’ve heard loud and clear that Coloradans are looking for relief, which is why we convened this committee so we can better understand the underlying forces behind rising utility rates and begin identifying solutions. I’m excited by the progress we made today, and I look forward to continuing our work so we can better protect consumers, improve our energy stability, and eventually save Coloradans money on their energy bills.”

"Expensive utility bills have left many Coloradans struggling to heat their homes, and today's hearing offered insight into some main drivers of pricing instability that are often invisible to customers who are left to foot the bill," said Joint Select Committee Vice Chair Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy, D-Lakewood. "This hearing was a great first step toward building an in-depth understanding of what's causing high utility prices. High energy prices hit families and low-and middle-income folks the hardest, and it's our responsibility to shed light on how we got here, and to work together towards potential cost-saving solutions."

“Skyrocketing utility bills are adding to the stress Coloradans are already feeling as we recover from the economic challenges brought by the pandemic,” Joint Select Committee member Sen. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County said. “Today, the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates heard from a number of experts that helped us better understand the energy landscape and factors at play in rate setting. I look forward to continuing our work to shed light on the process and get answers for the people of Colorado."

"We heard from Coloradans across the state and the message is clear — high, unpredictable energy costs are taking their toll," said Joint Select Committee member Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista. “Communities in Southwest Colorado are often left out of the conversation when it comes to rising energy costs, I’m proud to share and voice their concerns on this committee. The Joint Select Committee is committed to uncovering the root causes for high energy costs and hearing from experts helped us gather a stronger understanding of what is driving costs that are passed down to consumers.”

The Committee heard testimony from the following experts:

  • Erin O'Neill, Chief Economist for the Public Utilities Commission The Public Utilities Commission regulates utilities, which involves reviewing and approving generation and transmission plans, and the rates charged to pay for them. O’Neill explained how the utility rate setting process works, and addressed the false narrative that the transition to clean energy is what’s driving high utility rates. 

  • Joseph Pereira, Deputy Director for the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate The Office of Utility Consumer Advocate represents consumers when utility companies want to raise rates. Pereira spoke about the Office’s work to support pro-consumer policies in utility regulation, highlighting the difficulties of doing this work in an environment of asymmetric information

  • Keith Hay, Senior Director of Policy for the Colorado Energy Office The Colorado Energy Office works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumer energy costs by advancing energy efficiency. Hay discussed his office’s ongoing efforts to mitigate rate increases while advancing Colorado’s use of clean energy. 

  • Jennifer Gremmert, CEO and Executive Director of Energy Outreach Colorado Energy Outreach Colorado is a non-profit that provides utility bill payment assistance for low-income Coloradans. During today’s meeting, Gremmert shared how Energy Outreach Colorado has seen a significant increase in requests in recent months from Coloradans who need help paying their utility bills.

Convened by President Fenberg and House Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon in response to recent spikes in energy prices, the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates is working to better understand issues such as the impact of volatility in natural gas markets, the frequency and justification for rate increases sought by utilities, and other relevant factors.

The Committee’s next meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 14 at 2:00 p.m. Learn more about the Committee’s work HERE.

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