Colorado Springs, Colorado 2021-04-14 05:20:00 –
Tammy Brandz had the total amount in mind just before opening a monthly email from Wolf Creek Energy detailing the February energy bills for the Cripple Creek Victor School District.
The number in her head is about $ 6,500, a typical midwinter invoice for a district in the western mountains of Colorado Springs, about the same amount paid by district finance manager Bruntz in January. ..
So when she clicked on the email and saw the earnings ($ 45,000 in February), she yelled at her assistant and asked if anyone had read the meter incorrectly.
The February storm, where financial whirlwinds are opening up more and more in the southwest, has finally arrived at Cripple Creek, a population of 1,021. School gas suppliers have passed on the costs of the sharp surge in natural gas costs, blowing three-quarters of the district’s annual energy balance in just one month.
The total annual budget for running a CC-V school is approximately $ 5 million.
“I had a slight heart attack,” said Brunz, who suddenly learned the details of an energy contract signed with Wolf Creek Energy, a subsidiary of Summit Utility, long before arriving at the school district.
The shock was even more severe as February in Teller County was warmer than January, Brunz said. And CC-V suppliers couldn’t warn customers that a gridlocked energy grid 1000 miles away would spike gas prices, leading to embarrassing rates for Coloradans.
When Brunz finally found someone at Wolf Creek Energy and asked why the school wasn’t warned, they said, “They forgot to send a notice to their Colorado customers.”
Did they forget?
“They forgot. That’s what we were told,” Brunz said.
A Texas-centric February freeze is part of Coloradans as energy customers, from rural homeowners to ski resorts, nonprofits, and government agencies learn more about commodity costs than they’ve ever wanted. It becomes clear every week how badly it becomes clear that it will ruin your financial life.
Storm surge pricing for customers of large shareholder-owned utilities such as Xcel and Black Hills Energy has been put on hold as state regulators are investigating. Customers with other types of electricity contracts will not be amnesty..
Brandz and people like her sought advice from the state’s Consumer Advisory Board. OCC does not control fees directly, but it can advocate fee increases and public utility commission investigations on behalf of individual and institutional customers.
However, OCC said buyers like Cripple Creek’s school were not protected by PUC because they chose to buy electricity from distributors like Wolf Creek, which is overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It was.
Colorado is moving rapidly towards a renewable and consumer-friendly energy market. “But we’re not really a state that catches up with governance issues,” said OCC Deputy Director Joseph Pereira. “We are not really catching up with the issue of customer protection.”
Bruntz is new enough for CC-V, so I don’t know how the current energy contract was negotiated, but OCC made such an arrangement when deregulation allowed utilities to compete for business. He said it often happens. Distributors tell their customers that they can save money in advance, but they aren’t immersive in the fine print of utilities or used to negotiating complex contracts.
“The state basically decided that this was too risky for residential customers,” Pereira said, but for commercial and industrial customers, lawmakers said, “These are savvy entities. Yes, you should be able to take advantage of the market. The truth of the problem is that the Cripple Creek Victor School District is not in a position to play and understand the energy market. “
The CC-V invoice is from Wolf Creek Energy. Wolf Creek is a sister company of Colorado Natural Gas.. Wolf Creek and Colorado Natural Gas are owned by Centennial-based Summit Utility. Summit Utility is one of many utilities and generators owned by the Infrastructure Investment Fund created by JP Morgan & Chase. The fund receives advice from an asset management company At JP Morgan & Chase, Reported $ 120 billion in revenue From $ 3.4 trillion in assets in 2020.
Summit Utility spokesman Lizzie Reinhold said in an email statement that subsidiary Wolf Creek Energy would buy gas on behalf of the school district.
“Unfortunately, the extraordinary cold weather in February caused by the winter storm Uri has pushed gas prices to unprecedented levels in many parts of the United States,” the statement said. “Customers who bought gas on the spot market, like the Cripple Creek & Victor School District, had unusually high bills this month. We contacted the Cripple Creek & Victor School District to discuss billing support. We are always happy to work with you on payment options in the event of an unusual situation. “
Brunz said he was trying to track down the details of his full contract with Wolf Creek, why CC-V would be charged extra for the Midwest and Southern storms that didn’t affect the highlands of Colorado. I understand.
As Xcel and other large utilities have suggested for front-range customers, she asks Wolf Creek to change bills or pay schools little by little each month for long periods of time. I still don’t know.
“Yes, it’s a pretty chunk,” she said. The February bill looks like the entire teacher’s salary in places like Cripple Creek. “That,” she said, “and some.”
According to her, the school board said, “I was completely shocked. What it is, we have to deal with it, but you have to make budget adjustments and changes. I know it won’t be, and some will be reduced. “
Every week, the news of a new customer group surprised by the February storm prices seems to come. Xcel, Black Hills Energy, Colorado Springs Utilities and others have told the Public Utility Commission to pay hundreds of dollars extra from the average customer over the next two years to pay for additional fuel costs during the storm. It was. Governor Jared Polis urged PUC to scrutinize the requirements to see if the utility was sufficient to protect consumers from rising prices...
Utilities regulated by PUC (not all in the state) have the right to pass on higher fuel costs to consumers if they can prove necessary. Power companies claim that costs have gone out of control due to soaring prices for natural gas Demand in Texas and other states peaked during the storm, and natural gas distributors were also affected by the weather. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and colleagues have also asked federal authorities to investigate whether financial manipulation and commercial purposes have significantly worsened consumer gasoline prices.
A big storm and a surge in energy use are needed to reveal the rigorous details of many utility contracts, according to Consumer Advisors Pereira.
“These customers have contracts that they don’t know they have or that they are at their disadvantage,” he said. “And with climate change, these events are becoming more frequent.”
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February storm eats up much of Cripple Creek schools’ energy budget for an entire year Source link February storm eats up much of Cripple Creek schools’ energy budget for an entire year