Friday, April 8, 2011

PUC measure moving forward in the legislature

Balancing renewable-energy mandates, utility rates and effective oversight for ratepayers is the stated goal of an evolving measure making its way through the legislature.

House Bill 1222, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, as introduced would have reduced the length of time a state Public Utilities Commission member can serve and stipulated that members can only be retained by a vote of the people.

Current PUC commissioners, all appointed by former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, have drawn fire from Republicans and some industries over a range of issues—from PUC support for renewable-energy mandates to ethics allegations involving some commissioners’ travel reimbursements. The PUC’s duties include regulating and setting rates for the state’s investor-owned public utilities, such as Xcel Energy Colorado.

After HB 1222 was heard in the House Transportation and Energy Committee this week, the measure was given an overhaul. As amended and approved by the committee, it now requires the commission to include in its annual report to the House and Senate Transportation committees information related to any utility-rate cases in the previous two years, and any proposed or anticipated utility rate cases.

Conti says the updated bill is just another way of providing oversight for consumers, particularly with what she says is the No. 1 driver of higher utility bills—renewable energy.

“Renewables are driving the costs up, and the more we demand from renewables, the more costs will go up,” said Conti. “People are struggling with their power rates, especially those that are unemployed or underemployed.”

In 2004, Colorado voters approved a requirement for renewable energy to generate 10 percent of Colorado’s power, and in 2010, the legislature bumped up that mandate to 30 percent by 2020.

Conti says that the PUC has not been living up to its mission and that it should be held accountable for its decisions.

“The PUC is supposed to be the rate-guardians of the people—and they forgot that,” said Conti.

Via - Colorado News Agency

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