Regulators review possible options for electricity |

Regulators review possible options for electricity

DENVER (AP) Regulators have begun examining whether Colorado can protect itself from the kind of energy problems California faces.

The state Public Utilities Commission began the process Wednesday by exploring policies and ideas such as charging more for electricity when demand is high.

Commission economist Gary Schmitz said one of the issues regulators are studying is building coal-fired power plants. A coal plant can take years to plan and build, and none has been built in Colorado since the mid-1980s.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is considering building a huge coal-fired plant south of Las Animas. Deseret Generation and Transmission Corp. is exploring the possibility of a small coal plant in Utah or near Rangely on the Western Slope.

The watchdog Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel is monitoring the policy review, director Ken Reif said. He said his agency believes state rules lean too heavily in favor of short-term energy projects.

Reif said his office is interested in the proposal to charge consumers more when demand for electricity is high. He said using more power at peak times drives up costs because utilities then run their most expensive units or are forced to buy power on the wholesale market.

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But Reif said charging more for electricity during heavy use means customers who use less power will subsidize those who use more.

The Public Utilities Commission will accept written comments on rules until July 9. A public meeting is scheduled for July 19.

The commission delayed a decision on Xcel Energy’s plan to pay major electricity users to curtail power during peak times this summer. A decision is expected next week.

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