The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is considering a rule change that some environmentalists say is fairer to utility customers. The rule change would impact who pays for new natural gas lines when building new homes.
Currently, the cost is shared 50/50 between the electricity company and the developer. The change would put the cost 100% on the developer.
Some argue that the change, which is still open to public comment, would help customers save money on utility bills because utility companies often pass these costs on to the fees charged to customers.
“This current system makes everyone pay more instead of less,” said Jacob Smith, executive director of Colorado Communities for Climate Action. “So we’re supporting it, because it’s just for one thing, and it’s important that we don’t ask low-income families to pay the cost to subsidize developers to build new developments.”
It will also provide an incentive to build more electric homes, thereby reducing carbon emissions. He says the PUC is currently reviewing this rule change in the wake of a 2021 bill that requires utility companies to develop cleaner heating plans.
“It’s all part of figuring out how to reduce Colorado’s carbon pollution, carbon emissions, but it also happens that doing this for carbon pollution, the reasons for climate change, also means that people are going to spend less money heating their homes, and that also means we’re not asking middle-income families and low-income families in Colorado to pay the tab to make it easier for a developer to build expensive new homes,” Smith said.
But some industry officials aren’t so sure it will cut costs for consumers.
“So if it’s entirely on the investor, they’re just not going to do it anymore, and then that option is canceled,” said Sara Blackhurst, president of Action 22. “When you take an option out, when you limit the options, it never lowers the cost.It’s basic economics.
Blackhurst says policy changes like this could also jeopardize jobs in the natural gas sector and drive up the cost of housing. She argues that many low-income families don’t have the luxury of choosing all-electric homes.
She thinks the focus should be more on investing in cleaner natural gas strategies to keep options open for consumers and create more climate-friendly avenues.
“Drive the technologies that actually make it cleaner,” Blackhurst said.
The PUC is still collecting public comment on the measure. If you would like to submit your comment, Click here.
For more information on measurement, Click here.
Another public meeting on the subject will be organized on September 19 by Zoom. To find out how to attend, Click here.