Energy activists urged to fight Xcel’s proposed rate increases

By Carol Carpenter
RMC Communications Team

Denver, CO-The Energy Consumer Empowerment Workshop, held January 26, offered an excellent opportunity to learn more about Xcel Energy’s proposed Electric Commodities Adjustment (ECA) power rate increase and how individuals, organizations and state legislators can rally to fight against it and other future increases.

Presenters at the event also reminded and encouraged attendees to push policy makers and energy companies for more renewable energy options in Colorado that will lower energy costs and produce sustainable jobs.

More than 100 Colorado environmentalists and energy consumers attended the workshop that was co-sponsored by a diverse range of organizations including Coloradans for Fair Rates and Clean Energy (CO-FORCE), Colorado Renewable Energy Society, and Sierra Club’s Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Sen Carroll and Sam Anderson
A former member of RMC's Energy Committee, Sam Anderson, left, attended the Energy
Consumer Empowerment Workshop to hear Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) discuss the best
ways for citizens to be heard in the state legislature.

Among the speakers representing CO-FORCE was Leslie Glustrom, a coal and utilities expert and founder of Clean Energy Action. Glustrom led a lively workshop session that explored the roots of the proposed ECA (which has been written but not yet introduced in the Colorado Legislature), as well as Xcel’s history of multiple rate increases over the past decade. She emphasized how much more cost-effective it would be for Xcel to focus on renewable energy rather than using more expensive coal and natural gas, which drive up energy rates.

“We citizens have dragged Xcel kicking and screaming to renewable energy,” Glustrom said. “We do honor the progress they have made, but it simply isn’t enough.”

Energy graphic
By Jim Anderson

Xcel’s long-term coal commitments

Xcel continues to make much larger commitments to coal as compared to renewable energy options, including the high potential for solar thermal development in Colorado, and that policy is slated to continue until 2069, Glustrom said. 

“How many more billions of dollars will Xcel pour into coal plant operations that will continue to drive up rates?” she asked incredulously.

The coal industry continues to get huge government subsidies, while cleaner wind power does not, she added.

Glustrom also pointed out that:

●    Xcel is asking customers to fund future cost increases for fossil fuels at a time when the power company made $390 million in profits in 2011.

●    Xcel has no plans to significantly increase renewables through 2030.

●    The Colorado PUC approved over $800 million in ECA expenses for 2011 with no hearing or public review.

●    As natural gas costs increase, so will the ECA.

●    Both solar and wind power costs are expected to decrease in the coming decade.

Regarding the proposed ECA, Glustrom encouraged workshop attendees to become actively involved in fighting this quarterly cost adjustment. “One ratepayer can’t do much alone, but together at the grassroots level you can get your legislators to do it,”

Senate Majority Leader urges citizen action

Keynote speaker for the event was Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) who represents Colorado’s Senate District 29 in eastern Arapahoe County.  Author of Take Back Your Government: A Citizen's Guide to Grassroots Change, Carroll strongly encouraged attendees to lobby at the Capitol against the ECA and other future proposed energy increases.

“We’re in great shape for meaningful change this year,” the senator stated, pointing out that powerful oil and gas industry lobbyists will be funneling millions of dollars into the legislative system this year. “If citizens do nothing, that, in effect, sends a proxy vote to these (oil and gas) people.”

Max Tyler and Becky English
Colorado Representative Max Tyler (D-Lakewood), left, chatted with Becky English, a member
of the RMC Executive Committee, during the
Energy Consumer Empowerment Workshop.

Carroll listed a number of actions ordinary citizens can do to become effective participants in the legislative process, including contacting their representatives before a hearing begins, attending townhall meetings, providing specific information about an issue to their representatives, and even testifying in person at the Capitol.

“Paid lobbyists have the advantage of time and money, but when citizens get involved, they can also change the course of a bill. Doing anything is more effective than doing nothing,” she said.


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