The following article was written by Amy Cooke in response to the Public Utilities Commission’s ruling regarding the Coalition of Ratepayers’ request for attorney and expert witness fees.
While disappointed, the Coalition of Ratepayers isn’t surprised that the commissioners at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission denied us any and all financial relief even though the Coalition clearly met all criteria and was the only entity in the Colorado Energy Plan proceeding that seriously challenged Xcel’s “too good to be true” promise of new renewable energy at no cost to ratepayers.
The Coalition is incredibly proud of the work we did and the information we brought forward on behalf of ratepayers. Had it not been for the Coalition, Xcel Energy electricity ratepayers would have been sold the false promise of new energy resources at no additional cost to ratepayers or even below-cost – a claim that Xcel ultimately could not prove and was unable to persuade the Commission was true. Not only did the Coalition bring to light the numerous hidden costs of the Colorado Energy Plan, it also found an additional $87 million in errors that neither PUC staff nor the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) found in their analysis of the CEP.
Regulatory proceedings are expensive, exclusive, and opaque. The PUC seems to want to keep it that way. The decision to deny ratepayers relief in their efforts to challenge the Xcel’s misleading claims will have a chilling effect going forward, all to the benefit of monopoly utilities. In light of our experience as outsiders defending ratepayers in the regulatory process, it’s clear that these proceedings are more like Kabuki Theater with predetermined outcomes at ratepayers’ expense. Ratepayers have no voice and no choice.
No unelected commission of three should have the kind of power the PUC has without some kind of voter say. In order to restore integrity in the process and allow ratepayers a voice, we believe it is in the best interest of Coloradans that they elect their commissioners. Further, since the OCC is no longer interested in representing ratepayers, it should be stripped of that authority or consider an elected ombudsman who acts on behalf of ratepayers.
Going forward, it will be the Coalition’s goal to reform Colorado’s PUC making it more assessible and welcoming to all ratepayers, regardless of their ability to pay the high cost of entry, and to reshape the OCC so that ratepayers rather than monopolies are its focus.