Governor Polis announces initiative to lower energy costs in Colorado

A new initiative was announced Monday, expressing efforts to reduce energy costs for Coloradans.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 2:48 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - A new initiative was announced Monday, expressing efforts to reduce energy costs for Coloradans.

Governor Jared Polis, along with Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, and Patty Salazar, executive director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, announced alongside families and individuals facing high energy bills that they are striving to provide relief from high energy costs for Colorado homes and businesses.

The governor has directed the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates state utilities, and the Colorado Energy Office to implement several immediate actions to lessen the financial burden on Coloradans.

“We must leave no stone unturned to save Coloradans money on utility bills,” said Gov. Polis. “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 State of the State address, Gov. Polis stressed the importance of decreasing reliance on costly and unpredictable fossil fuels which led to soaring energy bills for Coloradans this winter.

Natural gas is a globally traded commodity with prices determined by the global market rather than the government. This makes Coloradans vulnerable to price spikes and emphasizes the need for reliable, low-cost energy in Colorado.

The governor hopes to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, ending consumers and the state’s reliance on costly fossil fuels.

“Many of my friends have felt those costs, and feel that rising costs driven by inflation are increasingly making it difficult to focus on our education and bettering our lives,” said Gov. Polis, “Many of my friends are dealing with the reality of needing to add a second job or increase hours at work, leaving less time to focus on our school work,” said Colin, a student who spoke at the event.

At the start of the winter this year, gas bills had increased by 75% compared to the same period last year. Swings in market prices are due to factors beyond Colorado’s immediate control, including extreme weather, climate change, infrastructure constraints, changes in global demand, and international conflict.

Fortunately, some relief is already on the way. Last week, the PUC approved a 15% decrease in Xcel’s rates, a good start – but more needs to be done.

“I am here today as a wife and mother of two children whose utility bill has nearly doubled over the past couple of months. Before, I paid $250. These days, I pay $475, and it’s impacting my life and my family’s life in big ways,” said Reyna.

The Governor also urged utilities in a letter to identify regulatory changes that could reduce customer costs due to natural gas price spikes, coordinate with state agencies and other organizations to increase access to bill pay assistance and other home energy efficiency programs, use federal tax credits to accelerate clean energy deployment, and explore financial arrangements and physical infrastructure to increase hedging, contracting, or storage options for natural gas.

In his letter, the Governor directed the PUC to take action including:

  • Improving access to and capacity of bill pay assistance programs
  • Working with utilities to secure federal funding for programs targeting Colorado homes and businesses
  • Incentivizing utilities to reduce customer costs
  • Identifying potential utility actions related to gas contracting, financial hedging, and gas storage; educating consumers on energy conservation
  • Analyzing ways to limit bill spikes
  • Identifying ways to support consumers in the most direct circumstances, including outreach about payment option for those behind on their bills
  • Implementing new approaches to increase public engagement with utility issues at the PUC

Governor Polis directed the Colorado Energy Office to take action including:

  • Expediting the creation of federally funded home energy rebate and other programs
  • Identifying new regulatory approaches and rate structures to align customer and utility conservation incentives
  • Implementing the state’s building performance standards, which apply to many large multifamily residences to reduce utility bills
  • Consider establishing new statewide building energy codes and providing technical assistance to local governments
  • Adopting the codes, in collaboration with the Department of Local Affairs to reduce utility bills
  • Implementing microgrid programs with state and federal funding.

“We welcome these directives and look forward to continuing efforts to address this issue,” said CEO Executive Director Will Toor. “We need to reduce dependence on volatile fossil fuel markets and embrace clean energy with more predictable costs for consumers. As we expand our efforts to accelerate this transition, we are also working with Coloradans to improve energy efficiency and electrification and keep energy costs down for all.”

The Governor is also directing agencies to take additional longer-term actions to promote electrification and transition Colorado’s electric grid to renewable energy, which offers more stable, predictable, and affordable energy prices than fossil fuels.