PROMO Energy - Electric Meter Money Power - iStock - MarkPiovesan

'Rate Payer Revolt' in Colorado calls for ending dependence on gas-fired energy

© iStock - MarkPiovesan
Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) Consumer advocates held a "Rate Payer Revolt" at the Colorado State Capitol yesterday, urging lawmakers to address what they see as the root cause of the recent extreme spikes in utility bills - the state's reliance on natural gas. 

Danny Katz, executive director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group - said lawmakers and utilities should take steps to protect ratepayers by tapping new federal funds to speed up the transition to sources such as wind and solar, which are produced locally and are not commodities traded on a global market.

PROMO Energy - Natural Gas Flame Stove Burner - iStock - FotoCuisinette

© iStock - FotoCuisinette

"And if we want to make sure that we are not getting ripped off as consumers into the future," said Katz, "we need to do more to reduce our reliance on gas to heat and power our homes and businesses."

Xcel Energy has blamed spikes in heating bills on rising wholesale gas prices and market forces beyond its control. It has launched a cost-adjustment plan to give consumers some relief. 

CoPIRG and other groups are urging the Legislature to take steps to lower the state's dependence on gas - including maximizing efficiency and ending ratepayer subsidies for new gas infrastructure, lobbying and legal expenses.

Xcel and other utilities have added clean-energy capacity, but continue to see natural gas as an important source for meeting peak energy demand and keeping the grid working at night and when the wind isn't blowing. 

PROMO 64J1 Energy - Power Lines Sky Sunset Clouds High Voltages - iStock - zhaojiankang

© iStock - zhaojiankang

Katz said we now have roadmaps and technologies - including increased storage capacity, and regulating peak demand via smart appliances - to wean ourselves off of natural gas.

"Twenty years ago, maybe we didn't have the technology, and maybe we needed to have a much more diverse portfolio," said Katz. "But I think we've seen the price of renewables have come down, the capacity that we have to put more energy from renewables has gone up."

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is more than 85 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 and is a major source of climate pollution. 

Katz said he believes now is the time for utilities across the state to move away from a fuel source subject to global supply chains and disruptive geo-political events.

"There's a lot of federal infrastructure money coming in as well," said Katz. "So there's never been a better time for utilities to step up and say, 'OK, we can start to reduce this reliance and move away from gas.'"