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May 11, 2023

Signed! Landmark Legislation to Improve Accountability & Transparency for Utilities, Save People Money on Energy Bills Becomes Law

BOULDER, CO – Today, Governor Polis signed into law landmark legislation to save Coloradans money on their energy bills and improve pricing stability to prevent unpredictable rate spikes.

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 Reps. 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 bill 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.

SB23-291 limits utility expenses that can be paid by ratepayers, such as lobbying and advertising, which are more appropriately paid by company shareholders. It also creates a cost-sharing mechanism to incentivize utilities to save their customers money on fuel costs, and allows the PUC to set a maximum monthly fuel cost to smooth out monthly bills and avoid sudden sharp increases.

“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 Fenberg said. “The legislation signed by Governor Polis today 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 many months of work result in policy that will help save Coloradans money on their energy bills and make much needed improvements to the way utilities are regulated in Colorado.”

“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 deGruy Kennedy. “This important law 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.”

“The Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates was hard at work this session searching for answers and working to save people money on their energy bills,” said Cutter. “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.”

“With this law, Colorado’s ratepayers are now front and center as we implement new ways to improve utility company transparency and accountability,” said Martinez. “For months, we’ve listened to consumer advocates, policy experts, utility companies and everyday Coloradans as we worked to find solutions to high, unpredictable utility bills that left many families struggling to heat their homes. I am proud to say this important law provides cost-saving solutions and protects Colordans from future drastic price hikes.” 

Additionally, the bill requires 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.

Convened in response to recent spikes in energy prices by Senate President Fenberg and House Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, 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.

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