Black Hills changing rates; some could see 50 percent increase

Black Hills changing rates some could...

PUEBLO, Colo. - Jerry Filpi just had solar panels installed.

"It's just something I believe is going to help, help the planet, help everybody," Filpi said.

But now they're wondering if they can afford to be "green."

They got a pamphlet in the mail, explaining the change in rates Black Hills Energy is proposing for general services customers, residential and net metered, which are the people like Filpi who use solar panels.

"Kind of picking on people trying to do the right thing," Filpi said.

Sen. Leroy Garcia from Pueblo says energy customers in Southern Colorado already pay some of the highest rates in the state.

"I think because Black Hills has been not so transparent in articulating what this could mean to ratepayers here, obviously there is a lot of concern," Garcia said.

In a statement to KRDO, Black Hills said business customers have been paying a disproportionate amount, so this request will simply reallocate the costs to the people who use the most: people on smart meters.

Garcia says Black Hills is holding customers hostage.

"I don't think you should have to choose between turning on the air conditioner or paying for your medications," Garcia said.

Filpi says if he knew they would be charged more for using their solar panels, they might not have made the investment in the first place.

"We talk about green. We talk about green with everything and here's a good way that people can start becoming more green and yet we are going to be allowed to kick the people that are trying to make that difference," Filpi said.

The Public Utilities Commission will take public comments about Black Hills' request until at least November.

If it passes, the rates wouldn't become effective until March of 2018.

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