COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — Brace for another price increase. This time it's your utility bill. On Wednesday, Colorado Springs Utilities discussed how much of a price increase to approve. The board has two choices, both raise rates.
The cost of producing energy has gone way up and that price increase gets passed on to customers. Because rate increases have to be approved every three months, utilities have been paying more to produce power than they've been taking in from customers.
It's why there are two rate increase proposals on the table, one that makes up that deficit quicker and the other postpones it. The board is split on which one to approve.
It's a couple of dollars difference a month between the two proposals. One of the main concerns debate is the impact on low-income residents living on a fixed income.
"The thinking for not doing it is that our ratepayers are being hit with lots of price increases," said Dave Donelson, Colorado Springs City Council. "It's one of those pay me now or pay me later."
With the lower rate, an average bill of around $260 a month would see a $27 a month increase.
The higher plan is one to two dollars more than that a month.
The utility board will change rates in the last week of June and will have to make a decision on one or the other. Rates go up on July 1st.
Natural gas is a large driver behind the increases as costs are now up 150% since December.
Production is still recovering from the pandemic, a lowering number of coal plants increases natural gas demand, and the Ukraine situation has led to exporting more natural gas.
The following tables outlining options are provided by Colorado Springs Utilities.
As the heat increases, so does the need for electricity to cool our homes, and the prices can be astronomical.
For some, it could be a choice between your power bill and your rent or mortgage.
The U.S. government predicts residential electricity costs will be nearly 5% higher this summer than last year.
"It's a huge increase and of course, this really has a tremendous impact on middle class and poor consumers because this is a big chunk of their monthly budget," said Ed Hirs, University of Houston energy fellow.
Some of the factors in the soaring prices include the war in Ukraine driving up natural gas costs, a severe drought in the West and a national forecast of extreme heat.
The midwest grid operator warns that rotating blackouts may be imposed on the hottest summer days. It’s a prospect Wisconsin hasn’t faced since the 1990s.
"What they're saying is they're telling companies like us that we may be shorter than past years as far as being able to meet peak need given a really, really hot summer," said Brendan Conway, We Energies spokesperson.
There are things you can do to try to keep your bills down.
"Let's start with your air conditioner because it is typically the biggest consumer of energy in your home," said Jill Hanks, Arizona public service spokesperson. "Be scheduling annual maintenance to make sure it is in tip-top shape and running efficiently."
Experts say you should change the unit's filter monthly, install programmable thermostats and unplug appliances you're not using them. And, if possible, upgrade the energy efficiency in older homes.
Low-income households can visit benefits.gov to get help with upgrade costs from the government.
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