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Coloradans Brace for Texas-Fueled Spikes in Energy Prices


Monday, July 12, 2021   

DENVER -- When this winter's power outages in Texas' deregulated electric grid caused shockingly high utility bills for customers, Xcel Energy was also forced to pay inflated prices to continue serving its customers in Colorado, and now, the bill is coming due.

Luke Ilderton, deputy director of Energy Outreach Colorado, explained Xcel and other utility companies across the U.S. had to buy natural gas in the same wholesale energy market that saw large spikes in demand as power stations in Texas not equipped to withstand freezing temperatures went offline.

"And therefore prices increased, and utilities needed to pay the elevated pricing for natural gas, in order to meet the needs of Coloradans to heat their homes that weekend," Ilderton noted.

Xcel has asked the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve rate increases to cover this winter's spike in prices, as well as investments it has already been making for improvements and updates.

Residential customers could see an increase of more than $9 on their monthly electric bills, with small businesses paying close to $15 more, starting in September 2022.

Ilderton pointed out for many Coloradans, an increase of $9 a month can force families to make tough decisions about which bills to pay. He emphasized people can find out if they are eligible for assistance by calling Energy Outreach Colorado's Heat Help Hotline, at 866-HEAT-HELP. And he added there are ways for families to reduce energy costs now.

"That starts with evaluating the efficiency of your home," Ilderton outlined. "Determining what energy conservation practices can be implemented in your home, and thinking about what you as a household can do to control your own home energy usage."

If the PUC approves Xcel's request, the company said it will use part of the $343 million generated to prevent wildfires by clearing vegetation near power lines, and will install smart meters to allow families to monitor their energy use in real time. The increase will also support investments in a 500-megawatt wind farm on Colorado's eastern plains.

Disclosure: Energy Outreach Colorado contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, and Housing/Homelessness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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