Backers say natural gas fee would promote efficiency, save money |

Backers say natural gas fee would promote efficiency, save money

DENVER Coloradans would have to pay an estimated 50 cents more on their natural gas bills to pay for proposed energy efficiency programs, but supporters say those programs could save consumers millions in the long run.Bill sponsor Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said Tuesday that the programs would save enough natural gas to power 146,000 homes a year by 2020. The decreased demand should keep natural gas prices more stable and save Colorado residents $600 million during that same period, said Will Coyne of Environment Colorado.”It’s one of the only things the Legislature can do to help everyone with their heating bills,” Coyne said.The measure (House Bill 1037), which passed its first committee vote Tuesday, would tell the Public Utility Commission to come up with rules for utilities to create energy efficiency programs. Those programs could range from giving tips to homeowners on how to make their home more efficient to performing energy audits on homes and distributing covers for water heaters, Coyne said.Rex Wilmouth, state director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, said the PUC could also require utilities to offer rebates on energy efficient furnaces or hot water heaters.The proposal is expected to cut overall natural gas use in the state by 8 percent by 2020, according to Howard Geller, executive director of the Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. However, he said people who upgrade their furnace, install new windows and insulation could cut their energy use by 25 to 30 percent. He said that could cut their energy bills by about $200 a year.Two similar proposals were vetoed by former Gov. Bill Owens. He said last year’s measure would have unfairly burdened residential utility customers and would have been unfair to households that are already energy efficient.This year’s proposal, part of a package of bills to increase energy efficiency and develop renewable energy sources, covers both residential and commercial rate payers.

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