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Polis directs Colorado agencies to work with utilities to cut energy costs

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – Soaring prices for natural gas, coal shortages and a colder winter led Democrat Governor Jared Polis to urge utility organizations to help consumers with energy bills.

Polis on Monday directed the Public Utilities Commission and the Colorado Energy Office to take immediate action to alleviate natural gas and energy costs for Coloradans. Polis also sent an eight-page letter to state regulators and leaders of utility companies and cooperatives asking for collaboration in reducing energy costs.

In December, Xcel Energy-Colorado told customers to expect increases in natural gas and electricity. The public utility provided the warning as it submitted its proposed quarterly fuel price adjustments to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The current commodity price of natural gas and a continued limited coal supply for the first quarter of 2023 influenced prices.

Xcel said the price of natural gas affects both natural gas and electricity, as gas is used to generate electricity.

“The use of natural gas for electric generation has been higher than normal due to rail issues transporting coal from mines to power plants,” Xcel said in a news release, adding it was conserving coal inventory to ensure reliable operations through the winter.

A media release from Polis’ office stated gas bills increased 75 percent compared to last year. Polis’ plan is for the state to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, ending reliance on fossil fuels.

“We must leave no stone unturned to save Coloradans money on utility bills,” Polis said in a statement. “Coloradans need near-term and long-term relief on their energy bills and today I am laying out ways state entities and utilities can take action to help save people money on their energy costs, to identify and implement opportunities to protect Colorado consumers, lower costs, and avoid price swings like the one we’re experiencing now.”

In his letter, Polis cited dramatic price swings caused by the war in Ukraine and Winter Storm Uri. He directed the Public Utilities Commission to take additional steps to improve energy bill stability and help customers better manage energy use and costs.

“This could include, but is not limited to, partnering with other energy-related offices to ensure alignment with my clean energy initiatives and helping utilities secure federal dollars for investments and programs targeting Colorado homes and businesses,” Polis wrote. “This effort should require utilities to report the impacts of existing programs on customers during these natural gas cost crises, identify action utilities can take to help customers manage costs, and changes that can maximize enrollment in utility programs.”