Area officials supporting bills aimed at reducing energy consumer costs

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Doug Monger

Doug Monger, a Routt County Commissioner and Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado Board chairman, contends “nobody” currently has energy consumers’ pocketbooks in mind.

That’s why Monger said AGNC, which is made up of several Northwest Colorado governments including Moffat County, supports a recently introduced bill that would make at least one state agency pay more attention to the impact its actions have on energy consumers.

Colorado Senate Bill 11-058 seeks to make the Colorado Public Utilities Commission’s priority minimizing ratepayers’ costs when utility companies ask approval for investments to power generation facilities.

The bill was introduced to the Senate on Jan. 19 and assigned to committee for preliminary consideration.

Currently, according to the bill, the PUC has been directed to give special consideration to “a number of factors and specific technologies.”

Monger said those factors include a preference for green and renewable energies, which, in effect, leaves residents to foot the bill for more expensive power sources.

“While it might sound like it’s a good idea to allow them to broaden their effort regarding renewables and the green energies, during that whole process I believe we haven’t had any oversight of the ratepayers,” Monger said.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers, who sits on the AGNC Board, said he supports the bill and the idea of limiting the authority the PUC currently has.

“I believe they really need this bill because through the process, through the years, they have given the PUC a different element to look at and that’s clean air (and) the environmental side of it,” he said. “They are using that as a big tool and it is like they have gone away from saying, ‘I’m the PUC that keeps the consumers’ rates low.”’

Commissioner Tom Gray said he also supported the idea of refocusing the PUC to place more emphasis on lessening consumer costs.

If such a rule had been in place when the PUC considered Xcel Energy’s plans to comply with Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, Gray said ratepayers might not have been hit as hard.

Gray contends the PUC might have given coal a chance to match the clean air standards set forth in the bill through clean coal technology, rather than through the usually higher cost of natural gas.

Mathers said he is supporting another bill he thinks will also have an end goal of limiting the impact ratepayers suffer from the speedy implementation of renewable energies.

That bill is Senate Bill 11-071, which was also introduced Jan. 19 and assigned to committee.

The bill seeks to roll back renewable energy standards to those set by voters in 2004 under Amendment 37. The amendment required state utilities to meet a 10-percent renewable energy standard for 2011 and future years, according to the bill.

Current law requires utilities to provide 30 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, according to the bill.

Monger said he thought AGNC would support the bill, but the organization hasn’t taken an official stance on it.

Mathers said an increase from 10-percent to 30-percent renewable energy in such a short period of time is alarming.

“Yeah, we all want clean air, and we all want different kinds of energies and renewable energies, but let’s do it in a moderate way,” he said. “Let’s not just jump in with both feet and not see where we are going and make some bad decisions.”

Gray said higher goals for renewable energy come with a higher cost passed on to the consumer.

“I think it is a worthy goal to be at some level of renewable energy — one that is attainable on a practical, cost-effective basis,” Gray said. “I think this big push that was put forward to get to 30 percent took it all out of the realm of what was practical and they basically said, ‘No matter the cost, we are going to be at 30 percent.’

“We all know who pays those costs.”

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