Guv signs law calling for utility bill transparency

Utility customers soon will get a lot more details about how they are using electricity and natural gas and what it’s costing them.

A bill signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday requires investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy to provide far more detail about what they are charging customers.

The measure, which was introduced by Democratic House Majority Leader KC Becker of Boulder and Sen. Leroy Garcia and Rep. Daneya Esgar, both of Pueblo, is aimed at helping consumers learn where they can conserve energy.

Under it, customers would not only know exactly how much energy they used during any given month, but also be able to compare it with their power use over the past year.

“Hard-working Coloradans should know exactly what they’re paying for when they receive their electric bill every month,” Garcia said. “In rural Colorado especially, where we have some of the highest energy rates in the state, it’s not right that a utility company can just sneak hidden or mysterious fees that ultimately result in higher electric bills.”

The new law requires the utility companies to present proposed bill formats to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, the state panel that regulates their operations.

Those bills are to include:

■ A line-item representation of all monthly charges and credits.

■ An indication of any charges that have changed since the prior month.

■ A breakdown of tiered rates — when they’re applied — and the power charged under each.

■ The daily average cost for the current month compared to the same month a year earlier.

■ A glossary of terms used by the utility.

■ A report to consumers biannually of each fuel source used in power generation, including renewable sources and fossil fuels.

Another measure carried by Garcia and Esgar, along with House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, that was signed by the governor Monday allows the Colorado Economic Development Commission to let certain businesses carry income tax credits they receive over five years when they file their income tax returns.

The measure, HB1356, is designed to help businesses maximize those credits, but only if they are for specific purposes, such as job growth, investments in property within enterprise zones and research and experimental activities.

On Sunday, the governor also signed SB117, introduced by Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, that recognizes water used to grow hemp has a legitimate water right.


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