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Colorado Springs Utilities facing huge cost of winter blast

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- While millions of Texans were without power during last week's winter blast, Colorado Springs Utilities reported that all was fine along the Front Range. Now, CSU is planning an emergency meeting Wednesday because the cost of running generators last week had a huge impact on the annual budget for natural gas.

According to a spokesperson for Colorado Springs Utilities told KRDO that CSU has now spent a good portion of its entire yearly funding for natural gas to power generators.

Natalie Eckhart with CSU says that extreme demand for electricity and natural gas from Feb. 13-16 resulted in a spike in natural gas prices. While CSU had been seeing market prices of about $2.50/Dekatherm, the price skyrocketed to nearly $200/Dekatherm.

At the special finance committee meeting, officials said during a four-day period where those natural gas prices skyrocketed, they spent an estimated $95 million. Typically, it would be between $7-10 million.

But ultimately, the money for the increased cost has to come from somewhere. Eckhart said, "We’re currently reviewing alternatives for how we will proceed with the pass-through of natural gas rates to our customers."

CSU leaders discussed three options on how customers will pay for the increase. The first would raise each customer's natural gas cost by about $11.45 per month from April 2021 until the end of January 2023. The second would raise it by $18.10 per month until April 2022. The third would raise it $36.43 per month but only until the end of the year. In total, customers would have to pay about $300 more just for gas.

Potential cost chart for CSU customers presented at Wednesday's special finance meeting. Costs are subject to change. Deals with electric and gas rate increases.

However, it's not just natural gas costs that went up but also electricity. CSU also released cost estimates for how much customers will have to pay for both rate increases. Option number one would add $48.47 to residential customer's utility bills starting in April and going until the end of the year. Option two, which appears to be the one favored by most, would add $25.03 to each bill until the end of April 2022. Finally, option three would add $16.21 to each bill until the end of January 2023. That total comes to about $385.

The Colorado Springs City Council will decide which timeline to go within March.

This news comes after Gov. Jared Polis applauded an investigation by the Public Utilities Commission to understand utility planning. Polis said he thinks customers should have a choice to either reduce or forego power for a couple of hours "to avoid hundreds of dollars of extra charges in utility costs."

This is a developing story and we're working on getting more information. Check back for updates.

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