DENVER, CO– The House Energy and Environment Committee today passed legislation that would extend, improve, and rename the Office of Consumer Counsel, a division of the Department of Regulatory Agencies that represents the public interest in proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission, federal agencies, and the courts.
“Each year, the newly renamed Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate saves Coloradans over $100 million, protecting everyone in our state from unfair utility rate increases or bills that should never have been sent,” said Majority Leader Danaya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “By finally providing the Office with adequate resources, we will empower them to serve as our watchdog and stop utilities from taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers. This bill will make sure that Colorado consumers always have a voice at the Public Utility Commission.”
SB21-103, which is sponsored by Majority Leader Esgar, would extend the OCC for seven years and change its name to the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate. It would also implement the recommendations of the sunset review to clarify that the OCC can participate in hearings before state agencies, engage on telecom issues before the PUC, conduct its own legislative affairs (separating the department from DOLA’s legislative efforts), and request and obtain documents that are critical for its work, particularly documents that may bring to light utility practices that increase costs on Colorado consumers.
The Office of Consumer Council is the voice of residential, small business, and agriculture consumers of electric and natural gas proceedings before the PUC, federal agencies, and the courts. It advocates for safe, reliable and affordable utility services and achieves savings for consumers through participation in regulatory hearings and through settlements with utility companies that result in rate reductions, refunds, or reductions in proposed rate increases. The OCC has saved consumers $1.7 billion over the last 30 years and has saved consumers $113 million on average per year during the last five years. It has returned more than $63 in savings for every dollar it takes in to finance its operations.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the OCC has taken action to protect energy consumers. It worked to establish shut-off moratoriums; advocated for a moratorium on late fees, reconnection fees, and deposit requirements; and helped ensure that utilities extend repayment plans.