Colorado Ain’t Texas

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

DENVER — Governor Jared Polis urged the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to protect consumers. 

“It has come to my attention that as a result of the recent extreme winter conditions starting on February 13th across large parts of the country, some Colorado utilities might have purchased natural gas at exorbitantly high market prices and may now seek to pass the cost of the market gas prices along to customers...Consumers should not be expected to shoulder unexpected exceptional costs without first being advised to reduce usage,” Governor Polis wrote to the PUC in a letter today. 

Following a deadly and dangerous freeze, consumers in Texas are being forced to pay sky-high utility bills. Reports show thousands of dollars in utility bills for some Texans. Governor Polis believes Colorado consumers deserve protection from any unfair practices and applauded the PUC for opening an investigation. 

“I understand the PUC has opened an investigatory proceeding to further understand utility planning and actions taken as they relate to this extreme weather event and associated spikes in energy prices. I strongly encourage that as part of this investigatory proceeding and any subsequent action, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should exercise all relevant jurisdictional authority...with a strong emphasis on protecting customers from unreasonable costs associated with short-term natural gas price fluctuation,” the Governor’s letter continued. 

The Governor noted that Platte River Power Authority took steps to notify their customers about conserving power and encouraged utilities to empower consumers to make decisions about their energy consumption choices. “If a utility needs an even greater reduction, they can conduct outbound emails and phone calls (such as reverse 911) to customers requesting that they reduce energy usage. As a backstop measure, if extraordinary circumstances warrant and technology allows, customers should also be able to choose whether to opt into rolling blackouts and thereby hold themselves harmless from drastic price increases. Customers should have the choice to reduce or forego power or heat for a couple hours to avoid hundreds of dollars of extra charges in utility costs.”

“I strongly encourage the PUC to more clearly define a specific set of actions utilities must take to protect Coloradans from excess costs resulting from fluctuating commodity prices, as a precursor to any consideration of passing along excess costs to customers,” Governor Polis’s letter concludes.