2024 Leg Session, Amy Oliver Cooke, Energy, Exclusives, Uncategorized

Cooke: Xcel Energy’s latest cash cow is the ‘Fenberg Rider’

Xcel Energy customers’ bills will increase thanks to State Senate President Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) and his recently introduced grid infrastructure bill, SB24-218, that allows Xcel to recover costs without going through the usual Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rate case process.

SB24-218 requires an investor-owned electric utility that serves 500,000 customers or more (Xcel is the utility that meets the definition) to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade its power distribution system to support Colorado lawmakers’ net zero and state electrification goals. Xcel will recover the costs through a rider on your electric bill, and it will do so without having to justify itself in a public rate case.

Fenberg’s bill labels the new charge the Grid Modernization Adjustment Clause (GMAC). A more appropriate name for Xcel’s new cash cow is the Fenberg Rider (FR), which will be added to all the other riders including the Colorado Energy Plan Adjustment (CEPA), Demand Side Management (DSM), Electric Commodity Adjustment (ECA), General Rate Schedule Adjustment (GRSA), Purchase Capacity Cost Adjustment (PCCA), Renewable Energy Standard Adjustment (RESA), Transmission Cost Adjustment (TCA), and Transportation Electrification Plan (TEP) that funds much of Xcel’s service without having to file a rate case. They’re all listed on your latest energy bill.

A review of my own most recent Xcel statement shows that legislatively approved riders account for 86 percent of my total bill. Comparing my March 2024 bill to my March 2011 bill shows the cost per kilowatt hour, including all riders, has increased 45 percent. Thanks to the new Feinberg Rider, our Xcel bills will increase even more.

This bill is being rammed through at the end of the legislative session to avoid scrutiny. The Colorado Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate, which is supposed to be a utility watchdog for residential and small business customers, won’t help. Director Cindy Schonhaut told the Colorado Sun, “This kind of cost recovery has to happen.”


Fenberg told the Senate Finance Committee that this increase is necessary because of “the fact that increased load does have a cost.” He’s right, but he leaves out that he and his fellow Democrats, including Governor Jared Polis, are leading the forced march to complete electrification of power generation, transportation, and building codes driving the increased load.

Driving the need to upgrade the distribution system is the current grid, which ratepayers paid to build, can’t accommodate intermittent, weather-dependent, couture resources like wind, solar, and batteries. The fickleness of solar and wind requires massive overbuilding in an attempt to meet increased demand.

The Independence Institute has been warning of rising costs for years. We predict rising costs will continue and get worse.

This is what I wrote on December 9, 2010 – a bad day for all Colorado energy users – after the PUC gave final approval to Xcel’s legislatively mandated fuel switching from coal to natural gas:

“Losers in this deal include consumers who will see their utility costs go up. Of course, the negative impact won’t just be felt at home but also on Coloradans’ total cost of living because businesses will have to raise their prices to cover their increased energy costs.

Also, the natural gas industry ultimately will be one of the biggest losers. Make no mistake.  This is not about cleaner burning natural gas; the real goal is to switch to renewable energy — expensive, unreliable renewable energy. The precedence for fuel switching has been set.  We are just one more legislative “fix” away from ridding Colorado of fossil fuel fired plants and replacing them with thousands of acres of windmills.”

Last year, Jake Fogelman, Isaac Orr, and Mitch Rolling released a series showing that all Colorado ratepayers could see average monthly bills over $1,200 while still suffering reliability issues and blackouts.

Last year the Democrat-dominated legislature put on a good show of concern over Coloradans’ utility bills. House Speaker Julie McCluskie (D-Dillion) said in an announcement about a legislative commission to study rising costs:

“Shockingly high utility bills have left Coloradans from Denver to Dillon struggling to heat their homes during the coldest time of the year. We need to get to the bottom of what’s sticking hardworking families with unpredictable and far too expensive utility bills. We’re creating a bipartisan committee to dig into utility bill increases and target solutions that make our state more affordable.”

 Like Kabuki Theater, Fenberg and McCluskie’s concern was for show.

As much as I dislike Xcel Energy, the monopoly utility is a creature of the political landscape created by state lawmakers and Governor Polis. Direct your anger at them. Their obsession with an impossible decarbonization agenda, which Xcel happily profits from, is the cause of skyrocketing bills. It will take the state over an economic cliff.

As the forced march continues, our name game will remind you who is responsible for riders and rate hikes. Colorado’s electrification is the Polis Plan, and the new Xcel cash cow is the Fenberg Rider.

There will be more—a lot more—as you’re forced to pay for an impossible political agenda that won’t keep our homes warm or the lights on.

Amy Cooke directs the Independence Institute’s energy and environmental policy center.


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