The state has announced the official makeup of a new legislative committee dedicated to investigating rising utility bills.
Comprised of lawmakers of both parties from each legislative chamber, the members of the six-person Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates will be as follows:
From the Senate-
- President Steve Fenberg (D.)
- Lisa Cutter (D.)
- Minority Whip Barbara Kirkmeyer (R.)
From the House-
- Chris Kennedy (D.)
- Matthew Martinez (D.)
- Minority Leader Mike Lynch (R.)
It remains to be determined if the committee will be more symbolic than substance, but Senator Fenberg claims it will provide a comprehensive look at what has caused energy bills to increase and explore possible reforms to the current utility model.
According to CPR News:
Fenberg said the select committee should consider if the current structure creates the right incentives. By exclusively allowing a profit on construction projects, he said, companies have become far too inclined to new build power plants, transmission lines and wind turbines.
“We should be asking ourselves if it’s still the right arrangement or if the return should be more connected to performance,” Fenberg said. “Should it be less about how much you can build and more about the service you provide to customers?”
Given the balance of power on the committee, it’s also quite likely that legislative reforms suggested by the committee will have a partisan valence.
Fenberg said the committee might also consider ways to help businesses and households rapidly move away from natural gas appliances to electric alternatives, which could insulate them from volatile commodity markets. Gov. Jared Polis directed his administration to take similar action last week.
Hopefully, the Republican members of the committee will be allowed to provide balance to the discussion, given the ways in which the Democratic majority has contributed to the high-cost situation the state currently finds itself in.
Xcel is a known quantity. Its strategy hasn’t changed. Xcel exists to constantly build new projects so that it can generate new revenue and a guaranteed rate of return rubber-stamped by the PUC. Same as it ever was.
What’s changed is that the people of Colorado, through their elected representatives at the state legislature, have decided to give that known quantity carte blanche to reorient the way the state generates and distributes power. And that comes at a cost.
Clean Energy Plans, transmission line buildouts, demand-side management plans, energy efficiency programs, building code electrification bills, rebates, renewable portfolio standards—these things all originated from deliberate policy choices, and the costs of seeing them implemented add up over time.
See also this Twitter thread:
Fenberg also shirks responsibility for Xcel being able to rate-base mandated EV charging infrastructure, saying "they largely wrote and lobbied for" the bill enabling it. I'm sure they did. You still passed it! If only the president of a near-supermajority had a say in the matter
— Jake Fogleman (@Jake_Fogleman) January 24, 2023
According to the committee web page, the hearings will be open to the public, though an official schedule of future committee meetings has yet to be released. In the meantime, members of the public can provide comments to committee members by reaching out to email@example.com.