Citizens had their chance to let the Colorado Public Utility Commission know they did not agree with a proposed gas rate increase requested by Xcel Energy.
"This is the fourth rate case in the last four years. There have been two electric cases and two gas cases. And then there have been other cases," said Bill Levis, a former Executive Director of the Office of Consumer Counsel for the State of Colorado and now a volunteer advocate for the AARP. "From the consumer standpoint they have little control over the cost and that's one of the big concerns our members have as well as other low-income consumers.
Earlier this year, Xcel asked for a series of increases which will be decided by the PUC in November. A website says the increase, "will support our ongoing efforts to improve system reliability and resiliency, strengthen safety and inspection programs, and take steps to operate the cleanest natural gas system possible." Advocates say an increase to pay for more natural gas infrastructure is counterintuitive to the utility's efforts to be off of fossil fuels by 2050.
"There has to be a better way to do this going forward," Levis said.
He showed CBS4 a recent bill from the past winter when gas rates hit a peak. He argues that state-approved surcharges combined with high rates are making things unaffordable for too many users.
"Nine little surcharges, I mean that's crazy," he said looking at the bill. "That is pretty substantial all these together."
Several people spoke out against the rate increase. Levis's biggest concern is what he calls "pancaking" of increases that will continue to stack up and bury customers.
"All the costs for that are going to be on consumers. It's going to be more and more as we go through the years," he said.
Xcel Energy released this statement to CBS4: We understand our customers are experiencing price increases in all areas of their lives. We want to help them manage their energy usage to keep bills low while continuing to deliver clean, safe and reliable service.
The rate proposal supports essential investments that will improve system reliability, strengthen safety and inspection programs, and take meaningful steps to operate the cleanest natural gas system possible, benefiting all our customers. It also supports our growing communities as we build the system to deliver service to those new homes and business. It is important to note that most of the cost customers see on their bills is a result of the natural gas market, which have more than tripled since January of 2021 and is determined by global supply.
Today's proposal includes limited gradual step increases over three years and, if approved, rates will remain stable for the next few years. Under Xcel Energy's proposal, gas rates for the average residential customer will increase by $3.86 (6%) per month starting in November 2022, $1.78 per (2.7%) month in November 2023, and $2.10 (3.1%) per month in 2024. For average small commercial customers, gas rates will increase by $14.85 (5.8%) starting in November 2022, $7.12 (2.6%) in November 2023, and $8.16 (2.9%) in 2024.
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