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August 4, 2023

JOINT RELEASE: Laws to Improve Accountability & Transparency for Utilities, Increase Adoption of Clean Energy Resources to Take Effect

DENVER, CO – New laws to save Coloradans money on their energy bills, improve pricing stability, and improve pathways for thermal energy adoption will take effect on August 7.

SB23-291, sponsored by Democratic members of the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, Senator Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, and Representatives Chris deGruy Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista, presents a package of reforms to lower utility bills now and in the future.

The law rebalances the kind of expenses paid by utility shareholders versus ratepayers and levels the playing field at Public Utilities Commission (PUC) proceedings, where costly infrastructure plans are proposed and approved.

“Colorado families were hit hard last winter by unexpected and severe price shocks, which is why we convened the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates to investigate the causes and find solutions,” Joint Select Committee Chair Fenberg said. “Our  legislation improves transparency and holds utilities more accountable to the ratepayers they serve while better aligning utility companies’ and Coloradans’ interests and expectations about their energy service. I’m excited to see this new law help save Coloradans money on their energy bills and make much needed improvements to the way utilities are regulated in Colorado.”

“Ahead of the winter season, I’m proud to say cost-saving solutions to protect Coloradans from rate spikes will soon go into effect,” said Joint Select Committee Vice Chair deGruy Kennedy. “During the legislative session, we worked hard to pass legislation that increases transparency and accountability surrounding utility pricing because many Coloradans were stuck with high, unpredictable energy bills. This law rebalances the relationship between ratepayers and utility companies so families can be spared from erratic utility costs, especially during the colder months.” 

“This session we convened the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates to search for answers to exorbitant utility rate increases and find ways to save people money on their energy bills,” said Cutter. "It quickly became clear that Coloradans have been bearing the brunt of volatile rate increases while utility companies are allowed to set their own rules. This important legislation will help level the playing field at the PUC, creating a more fair utility rate setting process that will impact Coloradans today and into the future.”

“During the legislative session, we worked tirelessly with consumer advocates, policy experts, utility companies and everyday Coloradans to find solutions to rising, unpredictable energy costs,” Martinez said. “Many Coloradans were hit hard by high utility costs and we passed a new solution that will improve utility transparency and accountability and rebalance the relationship between ratepayers and the utility companies they rely upon. We’re hopeful these cost-saving solutions will protect Coloradans from future drastic price hikes this winter.” 

Starting August 7, SB23-291 limits the ability of utility companies to recover certain expenses from ratepayers, such as lobbying and advertising, which are more appropriately paid by company shareholders and prohibits a disconnection fee when customers choose to terminate their gas service. Other provisions of the law that will take effect at a later date include directing the PUC to establish a cost-sharing mechanism to incentivize utilities to save their customers money on fuel costs, and allowing the PUC to set a maximum monthly fuel cost to smooth out monthly bills and avoid sudden sharp increases. In addition, the law will eliminate subsidies for gas line connections for new construction that are paid by existing customers.

Also taking effect on August 7, HB23-1252, which continues Colorado’s work to reduce emissions from gas utilities by providing a pathway for wider adoption of thermal energy as a clean heat resource. Sponsored by Sens. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and Tony Exum, Sr., D-Colorado Springs, and Reps. Sheila Lieder, D-Lakewood, and Cathy Kipp, D-Fort Collins, this law assists in the transition away from expensive fuel commodities like natural gas and will lead to more stable utility costs for Coloradans.

“As the effects of climate change become more and more pronounced, it is obvious we must implement bold policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts on our climate and our environment,” said Hansen. “Coloradans are demanding action. With these new laws, we are tackling this challenge head on by reducing emissions through innovative technology and setting reasonable and achievable goals. I’m proud of our work that puts our state on a path to climate sustainability for generations to come.”

“Thermal energy heating and cooling systems are saving companies money across the state, and this law creates a stronger pathway for Coloradans and businesses to take advantage of this new technology,” Lieder said. “Our law now makes it easier to expand and implement clean, reliable thermal energy technology which creates good paying jobs in emerging fields and necessary trades, including pipefitting.”

“Adopting new clean energy technologies like thermal energy will help create jobs while lowering overall emissions,” said Exum. “Natural gas is driving up utility costs and putting the squeeze on Coloradans' budgets. We have an opportunity this year to continue moving away from polluting energy sources and instead adopt cleaner technology to move Colorado’s economy and climate goals forward.”

“Thermal energy is the heat beneath our feet. This law makes it easier for businesses and Coloradans to implement this clean and sustainable technology,” Kipp said. “Encouraging and adopting clean technologies, such as thermal energy, is key to helping Colorado reach its climate goals, cut our reliance on fossil fuels and save people money.”                 

Thermal energy systems heat and cool buildings by circulating non-combustible fluids through a pipe network. Defining thermal energy as a clean heat resource allows the state to expand its usage, create new job opportunities, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and save Coloradans money on their utility bills. Large gas utilities will be required to propose at least one pilot program with the PUC by September 1, 2024 to provide thermal energy service to their customers, with at least one project serving a disproportionately impacted community.

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