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ICYMI: Colorado can’t afford another increase in energy prices 

Jul 10, 2023 by AFP

DENVER, CO – Today, the Denver Gazette published an op-ed penned by Americans for Prosperity-Colorado State Director Jesse Mallory urging residents to “raise their voices in protest” against the rate increases imposed by Xcel Energy and the Public Utilities Commission. 

Mallory continues saying, “We cannot afford another rate increase or the misguided laws that make higher rates inevitable. I am urging every Coloradan to register their dissatisfaction with legislative mandates that drive up the cost of cooling our homes, and with the PUC’s proposed utility rate increase.”  

In Case You Missed It… 

Colorado can’t afford another increase in energy prices 

By Jesse Mallory 

In the past five years, Xcel Energy has been granted five rate increases by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.  

The PUC is hosting a listening campaign encouraging Coloradans to give feedback to the energy company. On July 11, citizens will have the opportunity to let the utility and its supposed regulators know how they feel.   

We urge every Coloradan to raise their voices in protest.  

The PUC’s astronomical rate hikes have cost Coloradans hundreds of extra dollars every month in skyrocketing cooling costs.   

Combined with the inflationary and big-spending policies of Governor Jared Polis and Denver Democrats, this is the new status quo in Colorado.   

As summer arrives, temperatures in Colorado are starting to rise, and ratepayers are fed up.   

Back in January, the Public Utilities Commission tried to justify these increases by comparing them to natural gas price increases.  

“For a typical Xcel customer, the electric utility bills are up maybe 20-25%, as opposed to gas bills, which have increased more like 75%,” according to Erin O’Neill, the PUC’s chief economist said.  

But utilities don’t operate in the free market. They are government-created monopolies, guaranteed a profit. Their rates are set by the government, in our case the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.  

Their costs of materials are affected by the free market, but they don’t compete with other companies like the producers, wholesalers, and retailers of gasoline do.   

The PUC economist’s comparison is bogus.  

Because they’re protected from competition, regulators and the legislature are supposed to provide oversight to protect ratepayers.  

Both have been falling down on the job. Not only are they not protecting ratepayers, they’re actively making the situation worse.  

There are always going to be fluctuations in the cost of energy sources. Colorado’s long-term energy costs are driven not by short-term ups and downs, but by systemic issues that are largely a result of government action.  

Renewable mandates enacted by the legislature drive up system costs. The PUC then allows utilities to pass on those higher costs – from both generation and transmission – to the ratepayers.  

The people who are supposed to be looking out for ratepayers – elected legislators, appointed commissioners, and utility company executives – should work together to ensure their constituents and customers are being treated fairly.  

Another $300 million increase does not fit any rational definition of fair, and the PUC should refuse to endorse it.  

It would also help if the legislature stopped making things worse.  

Over the past four years, lawmakers have enacted measures that passed on to Xcel customers the costs of prematurely closing power plants. These closures are Xcel’s way to convert to more expensive renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, away from relatively cheap and abundant coal, oil, and natural gas – a move itself forced by renewable mandates.  

As this doom-loop drove up rates, customers grew more and more irate. They complained to their lawmakers. And this year the General Assembly, with the best of intentions, took action. It passed a measure, Senate Bill 23-291, that caps the amount of those costs that Xcel can pass on to ratepayers.   

Unfortunately, it won’t work. The measure is just another misguided mandate, the mirror image of the laws that have exacerbated the problem in the first place.   

The result will simply be more top-down regulation that leads in the long term to higher rates.  

Instead of taking with the left hand and giving with the right hand, lawmakers should start working with both hands to eliminate mandates that force both the PUC and utility companies to serve the ideological whims of politicians instead of the best interests of ratepayers.  

We cannot afford another rate increase or the misguided laws that make higher rates inevitable. I am urging every Coloradan to register their dissatisfaction with legislative mandates that drive up the cost of cooling our homes, and with the PUC’s proposed utility rate increase.  

Jesse Mallory is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Colorado. 

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