Colorado Set for Retail Deregulation
Gov. Bill Owens signed SB99-153 last week, opening the door for
voluntary unbundling by Colorado's gas utilities. The bill had been
passed by the state's House of Representatives then presented to
the Governor May 17.
The bill allows utilities to volunteer plans to the Colorado
Public Utilities Commission. The Commission decides controversial
issues such as capacity assignment, provider of last resort and
whether LDCs should be forced to exit the merchant function. Once
the plan is approved, the utility can then open up its service
The Public Service Co. of Colorado, the state's largest gas
utility, said it was in favor of the legislation but would not act
hastily. "We're not going to submit a plan for a while. Right now,
we're aiming to have one put together sometime near Jan. 1, 2000,"
said Mark Salley, a Public Service Co. spokesman. He added that
although the company will not start deregulating right away, it
will start itemizing customers' bills so they can start comparing
KN Energy, the LDC for 50,000 customers in Northeast Colorado
and the western slope of the state, has already decided to open its
service areas to competition. With its ongoing unbundling programs
in Nebraska and Wyoming, KN Energy's affiliate, KN Energy Gas
Service has an advantage in deregulating Midwest markets and plans
to be extremely active in Colorado, said KN Energy spokesperson
One concern that was dealt with in the Senate was a provision
that would allow some municipal utilities to keep from public eyes
information deemed to be sensitive from a competitive standpoint.
The bill was amended to require a public hearing to determine which
municipal utility records could be closed.
For some utilities, however, the measure did not go far enough.
Phil Tollefson, a director at Colorado Springs Utilities, argued
that these hearings would tip off rates to competitors. He said if
the public hearing determines that the records should be open, it
would "be like getting into the ring with one hand tied behind our
back. And that would be kind of stupid on our part." Tollefson said
he is wavering on whether to recommend the utility should unbundle
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