Bigger Vail energy users face higher rates | VailDaily.com

Bigger Vail energy users face higher rates

Scott Condon
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” Large homes in the Vail, Colorado and Aspen areas that consume the most power will pay higher electricity bills next year.

Holy Cross Energy is going to overhaul its pricing system to reward conservation and penalize high consumption among its residential customers. The electrical cooperative serves 43,000 customers in the Eagle, Roaring Fork and lower Colorado River valleys. Its service area includes parts of Aspen and Vail.

“Our intent is to promote it not as punitive but as an opportunity,” said Holy Cross Chief Executive Officer Del Worley. When the new pricing is put in place, the utility company will work with its customers on conservation measures to reduce their electricity use, he said.

The details of the new pricing system haven’t been worked out and probably won’t be in place until next spring. The goal will be to tweak the pricing enough to entice people to conserve and increase efficiency.

“I hope we don’t get too much negative feedback here,” Worley said. “I don’t think we will, based on our customer base.”

The proposal had the support of the utility company’s board of directors. “I’m hoping that has an effect on energy use,” said Hal Clark, the board member for the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

The idea isn’t new. Aspen Electric has used the tiered pricing system for its customers for years and implemented it this year for commercial customers. The rates were adjusted this year, resulting in increases ranging from 0.2 percent to 30 percent in electric bills.

Worley said he didn’t know yet how Holy Cross customers will be affected. The average customer won’t pay a higher bill, but will have the opportunity to pay less through conservation and energy efficiency, he said. The Holy Cross staff will propose a phased approach, so that homeowners with high consumption aren’t hit with a drastic increase all at once.

The Colorado Legislature cleared the way for the new pricing with a bill passed in the session that ended this month. That bill was sponsored by the Roaring Fork Valley’s two legislators, Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village and Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison. Holy Cross Energy sought the legislation and lobbied for its approval. It passed with ease in the House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter.

The new law requires that the new pricing be “revenue neutral,” meaning that utility companies cannot use it to jack up their revenues. So, for each large home that pays higher electricity bills, someone else’s share goes down.

Worley credited the Sopris Foundation, an Aspen-based environmental nonprofit, for spurring Holy Cross’ interest in the tiered pricing. Staff members had previously thought about the idea and the Sopris Foundation helped provide information on how to implement it.

The Aspen Skiing Co. also promoted the tiered pricing. “I’m very pleased Holy Cross is moving forward with it,” said Auden Schendler, the company’s executive director of community and environmental responsibility. “It’s more carrot than stick.”