Op-ed: Protecting consumers, tackling high utility bills

Rep. Chris DeGruy Kennedy and Sen. Lisa Cutter
Posted 5/10/23

Early this year, we heard from constituents that their monthly utility bills went up astronomically. 

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.

Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

Op-ed: Protecting consumers, tackling high utility bills


Early this year, we heard from constituents that their monthly utility bills went up astronomically.  The amounts were shocking and created real difficulties for people struggling to keep up with food, rent and other necessities. And this didn’t just impact our homes and apartments. Our places of worship, our local shops, our schools and hospitals – all of the important community institutions and businesses across Jefferson County – were also faced with these dramatic increases in their bills. 

In response, we launched a special committee at the Capitol to hear from experts on what was driving these costs, and what we could do at the legislature to protect consumers in the future. Based on the testimony we heard from experts over the course of three committee hearings, we introduced legislation that will address some of the waste, inefficiencies and high costs that made heating and powering our homes and businesses so expensive this winter. 

SB23-291 will ensure that ratepayers  won’t have to pay for utility expenses that have nothing to do with providing us safe, reliable heat and electricity. Currently, things like lobbying expenses, political donations, tax penalties and promotional marketing are paid for you by you. Utilities are natural monopolies, so ratepayers shouldn’t be paying for purely brand building ads. 

The bill also raises the bar for the level of detail that investor-owned utilities, like Xcel Energy, need to provide to regulators when they’re arguing to raise your rates. We rely on the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to review proposals from utilities that will impact our bills, and ensure all proposed increases are reasonable and legitimate. But that can be difficult when utilities don’t always provide all of the data and assumptions they are using to justify the requested rate increase. Our bill will create a more thorough and transparent process, allowing regulators to more quickly and efficiently understand the impacts to ratepayers and better evaluate the legitimacy of the proposed increases. 

Our bill will also better align the interests of for-profit utilities with the interests of energy consumers. Utilities like Xcel do not make any money off the cost of the fuel they purchase to heat our homes. So if the cost of gas (the fuel most commonly used) goes up by 40% like it did this winter, they pass that cost on to us dollar for dollar. As a result, they have no financial incentive to seek ways to reduce these price spikes or, even better, to reduce our reliance on volatile fuels so we’re not exposed to big hikes to begin with. Our bill sets up strategies to ensure the risk is shared, giving utilities a financial incentive to better manage these spikes in cost by hedging and building out energy storage capacity. It also better aligns our major utility to reduce waste and increase efficiencies in the system, some of the simplest and cheapest ways to save consumers money. 

Finally, our bill helps ensure that our regulators are identifying and stopping wasteful new gas investments that may take 50 years to pay off but will be turned off in the next 20 years to meet our climate goals. Ratepayers should not be on the hook to pay for something until 2075 that is no longer providing their power.

These unacceptably high utility bills this winter affected all of us. But SB23-291 will protect consumers and reduce bills in the future. We already have the tools to reduce waste, increase efficiency and save people money. Our bill ensures we use more of those tools in the interests of our families and our community. 


Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.