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CO Legislative Proposal Could Mandate More Energy-Saving Programs

CO Legislative Proposal Could Mandate More Energy-Saving Programs

While consumer issues have already turned up the regulatory heat, proposed legislation promises to light a fire under Colorado's major utilities, requiring them to step up energy savings and conservation programs. Included in early versions of a bill backed by a mixture of environmental and energy efficiency groups is a requirement to reduce the average retail utility customer's energy use by 0.5% annually for the next 15 years.

The proponents of the bill (HB 04-1184) are touting it as a way to create up to $1 billion in consumer savings over the next 15 years. As part of the proposed new law, utilities, such as Minnesota-based Xcel Energy Corp.'s Public Service of Colorado, would be able to file for rate increases with state regulators to cover the added costs that might be created by the new legislatively-mandated program.

While rates might go up as much as 1% annually to fund the program, the added energy savings would tend to wash it out, according to the bill proponents. An Xcel utility spokesperson said the company hasn't taken a position on the proposed new law, but it didn't want to be placed in a "Big Brother position," ordering customers to use less energy.

"Although we haven't taken a position, we see the bill as currently written as problematic because we are already doing a lot of what it wants. The targeted savings for both gas and electricity customers may not be realistic," said Mark Stutz, the utility spokesperson. "About one-third of our 1.4 million customers are renters. We think you get a lot more bang for the buck by targeting energy-savings programs intelligently."

Currently the utility said it has a five-year, $75 million program geared toward businesses that is projected to reduce peak electric loads by up to 125 MW. Proponents of the new state legislation argue that it is needed to assure that Xcel extends the ongoing program for the longer term.

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