Legislation will implement savings for ratepayers, level playing field at the PUC
DENVER, CO – Democratic members of the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates yesterday introduced legislation that would improve transparency and accountability for utilities and save people money on their energy bills.
SB23-291 presents a package of reforms to lower utility bills now and in the future. It rebalances what kinds of expenses are paid by utility shareholders vs. ratepayers, aligns incentives on fuel cost control, and levels the playing field at PUC proceedings, where 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 mechanism to incentivize utilities to save 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.
“Colorado families were hit hard this 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 Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said. “That’s why I am proud to introduce this legislation that will improve transparency and hold utilities more accountable to the ratepayers they serve. Senate Bill 291 will help to align utility companies’ and Coloradans’ interests and expectations about their energy service, while helping save Coloradans money on their energy bills ”
"Coloradans are counting on us to address skyrocketing utility costs, and as a Joint Select Committee, we’ve taken their concerns seriously as we worked to uncover the root causes of rising rates,” said Joint Select Committee Vice Chair Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy, D-Lakewood. “After months of information gathering, we’re introducing legislation to change the incentive structure for utilities that will better protect ratepayers from sudden price hikes and ensure a more transparent PUC process for consumer interests.”
“Our committee has been hard at work the past few months searching for answers and working to save people money on their energy bills,” Joint Select Committee member Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, said. “One thing quickly became clear, Coloradans are bearing the brunt of volatile rate increases while utility companies are empowered to set their own rules. This important legislation will help level the playing field at the PUC and create fairer processes in utility rate setting that will impact Coloradans today and for generations to come.”
"As a Joint Select Committee, we’ve been working diligently with policy experts, consumer advocates, and utility companies to uncover what is leading to rising utility rates that are impacting our neighbors,” said Joint Select Committee member Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista. “Our new legislation will create a pathway toward long-term, cost-saving solutions that will increase rate transparency and provide additional tools and tactics to limit price hikes that stick Coloradans with high, unpredictable utility bills.”
Further, the bill would level the playing field at the PUC by requiring 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’ use of expensive consultants and lawyers that argue on behalf of rate increases.
SB23-291 will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee. You can track the bill’s progress HERE.
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 worked 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.