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In mid-February, a record-breaking storm passed through the United States. The national news focused on Texas where simultaneous demand spikes and outages led to a surge in utility costs for customers. Those who had signed up for variable-rate utilities received bills in the thousands of dollars. In Colorado Springs, the publicly owned utility company reported paying nearly $200 per dekatherm for natural gas, versus the “normal” purchase amount of $2.50 per dekatherm. 

Utility Rate Increases and Help for Families

Across the country, changes to utility rates designed to cover the added costs associated with the storm are passed to consumers who may already be struggling. Colorado Governor Jared Polis urged the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to protect these consumers. According to the Colorado Sun, “Utilities have told regulators in multiple states that their costs for natural gas – a primary backup during storm-surge demand – hit 50 to 200 times normal prices. In Colorado, utilities have the right to ask consumers to pay back storm-surge costs, while the PUC has the right to review and modify or deny the requests, unlike in Texas, whose largely unregulated market passes thousand-dollar monthly surges straight to consumers.” The Colorado PUC is still investigating how some utility companies responded to the February storm ahead of approving any cost increases to consumers to cover surges. 

For Colorado Springs Utilities customers, an increase in natural gas costs will be apparent on March 2021 utility bills. This increase is designed to cover the sudden expenses the storm caused, spreading out the charges over multiple months. Residential customers will see a 9.5% increase, equating to $21.99 for the average home, according to KKTV and a Colorado Springs Utilities press release

From Colorado Springs Utilities: “We understand the past year has been difficult and want to help customers through this time. We’ve suspended disconnects until further notice and will continue to offer payment plans and assistance programs, such as the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), Project COPE and Energy Outreach Colorado,” said CEO Aram Benyamin.

Prepare for the Next Weather Event

Residents who apply for any of the programs available to utility customers are encouraged to contact Energy Resource Center about free services to further help lower utility costs, especially ones associated with extreme weather. For example, anyone approved for LEAP is automatically qualified for our free energy-efficiency services as long as they live in our 27-county coverage area. Applications for services and details are available here

Looking ahead to the potential of more extreme weather, it is clear that now is the perfect time to make sure your home is ready. Insulation, weather-stripping, even the efficiency of your appliances all affect your utility bill. We can help ensure you and your family are safe and warm no matter what the conditions are outside.

 

Photo by Flow Clark on Unsplash

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