Jul 25, 2014 4:30 PM by Andy Koen
PUEBLO - The spike in electricity rates paid by Black Hills Energy customers in Pueblo has caught the attention of national news media. A story in the Washington Post highlights the burden the $110.22 average monthly electric bills place on customers in a city with an 18.1 percent poverty rate.
The company is currently expanding their $500 million natural gas fired power plant near the Pueblo Airport and those costs are being absorbed by customer bills.
Pueblo used to draw most of its electricity from the coal fired Comanche power plant. However, that facility is owned by Xcel Energy and a few years ago Xcel stopped selling power to Black Hills.
The company also took a coal fired power plant off-line in Cañon City last in order to comply with clean air regulations. That left natural gas plant as the primary source of electricity generation for the 94,000 customers the company services in Pueblo and Southeastern Colorado.
Bret Jones, Senior Manager of External Affairs for Black Hills, believes the WaPo article didn't show all the factors contributing to high utility rates.
"Black Hills Energy doesn't feel that the article provides a complete picture, first of how we've conducted our business in Colorado, or how we've engaged with our stakeholders," Jones said.
He said the company believes changes in state and federal regulations about coal power are also affecting higher utility rates.
Puebloans have no other choice than to buy their power from Black Hills. Voters approved a 20-year exclusive franchise agreement with the utility company in 2010.