DENVER, CO – The House today passed legislation to save Coloradans money on their energy bills and improve pricing stability to prevent unpredictable rate spikes. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Chris deGruy Kennedy and Matthew Martinez, would increase transparency and accountability of investor-owned utility companies before the Public Utilities Commission.
“Coloradans are counting on us to address rising and erratic utility costs, and we’re proud to move forward with this solution,” said Joint Select Committee Vice Chair Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy, D-Lakewood. “This important legislation sets in motion both short and long-term, cost-saving solutions that increase transparency and accountability to protect Coloradans from rate spikes that leave them choosing between heating their home and putting food on the table while utilities rake in record profits. It also rebalances the relationship between ratepayers and utility companies so Coloradans aren’t subsidizing lobbying, advertising and other expenses that utilities pass on to consumers.”
“We’ve spent time with consumer advocates, utility companies, and policy experts as we’ve worked to uncover the root causes for rising utility rates,” said Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista. “Our legislation improves accountability and transparency by creating a fairer utility rate setting process that centers the interests of ratepayers. Coloradans’ voices need to be front and center, and this bill will better align utility and consumer interests so ratepayers aren’t stuck with high, unpredictable utility bills.”
SB23-291, which passed the House by a vote of 64-19, 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 purchasing, 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 sharp increases.
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 consumer advocates evaluate whether proposed investments are truly in the public interest. In addition, the bill empowers the PUC to reduce utilities’ ability to charge their consumers for expensive consultants and lawyers that argue on behalf of rate increases.