DENVER — Xcel Energy and other energy companies pass along natural gas costs dollar for dollar -- what they pay for the gas, you pay for the gas.
That's not the only cost passed along to customers. Xcel is also allowed to pass along the cost of its legal team. Specifically, customers pay for Xcel's lawyers to ask Colorado state regulators for increases for a variety of reasons.
It's a battle the State Office of Utility Consumer Advocate (UCA) recently tried to fight.
"We are independent of both the Public Utilities Commission and the governor's office," Cindy Schonhaut, the director of the UCA, told 9NEWS.
The UCA defends consumers in front of the regulators, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), when energy companies like Xcel ask for rate increases.
"We haven't been very successful. And the reason is because we're an advocate, not a decision maker," Schonhaut said.
The three PUC commissioners are the decision makers.
For example, they approved the most recent $64 million gas rate increase that took effect in November 2022. The UCA fought against some of the costs included with that increase request, including $2.2 million that Xcel wanted built into the new rate to pay for the legal team that was needed to argue for the increase.
"The cost that the company incurred to put on a case to raise consumer rates, consumers are paying for those costs," Schonhaut said. "We are giving them the money to get the rate increase, yes."
If it is any consolation to customers, the PUC knocked down the $2.2 million to $2 million and encouraged Xcel "to better manage its expenses related to rate cases."
"As far as success from our office, I would really point to yesterday's public comment hearing. And the reason is, we didn't speak, of course. Consumers did. And they had something to say," Schonhaut said.
And if you have something to say, the UCA wants to hear from you. You can call or email, but email is preferred. You'll want to simply copy and paste the address: DORA_utilityconsumeradvocate_website@state.co.us. (There's also a link at the top of their website for people to send in a concern.)
In the last two months, the UCA received 102 emails and voicemails, with another dozen since the PUC public meeting on Tuesday.
"I will tell you I've been in this position nine years. I can't even measure the order of magnitude difference between what we received in the last six to 12 months from consumers, with the whole nine years before that," Schonhaut said.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Full Episodes of Next with Kyle Clark