Black Hills Energy is the worst kind of corporate vampire. I see this first-hand as an owner of multi-family residential real estate in Pueblo Colorado. Now I’ve learned Black Hills is also hampering Pueblo’s chance to take advantage of our community’s opportunity to invest in solar energy. Something needs to change. Unfortunately, the Colorado Public Utility Commission seems to be a co-conspirator.
I own a small apartment building in the Mesa Junction neighborhood of Pueblo. I bought it in pretty rough condition and I’ve been slowly fixing it up. Each unit is separately metered so, until recently, I charged rent and required tenants to pay for electricity separately through Black Hills. My apartments are affordable 2-bedroom units so they appeal to young families just starting out in life with limited financial resources. I also have older tenants typically retired or disabled and living on modest fixed incomes. Ostensibly, Black Hills has some sort of program to help low-income households afford electricity. It’s called BHEAP and it’s a “heap” of something all right. In reality, Black Hills uses the program as an opportunity to prey on low-income households penalizing them severely for any lapse on their account. But, don’t take my word for it. Watch the video below produced by Sister Nancy Crafton, director of El Centro de Los Pobres in Avondale (just east of Pueblo).
Sister Nancy’s account is consistent with what I’ve seen some of my tenants go through. Aside from their on-going scam to raise rates every few months, Black Hills charges ridiculously high deposits for new accounts. One of my tenants who moved in a few months ago couldn’t afford the $200 deposit required to start their $40/month electricity account (can you imagine charging a $3,000 deposit on a $600/mo apartment?) so I am covering their utility bill and they reimburse me. Black Hills wanted a $2,000 deposit from me on a separate commercial property I purchased last year but I was able to avoid it by using an existing account. Of course, new residents or young people moving into their first place don’t have such flexibility. Nice way to welcome them to the bill-paying community, huh? Thanks for the hospitality, Black Hills.
While adding another set of bills is annoying I don’t really have a problem paying utilities as part of a service for tenants. In fact, it provides incentive for me to make investments in energy efficiency. So, along those lines, I began investigating the possibility of installing solar panels on the roof of my apartment building. It’s a fairly large, flat roof with good southern exposure well suited for a solar installation. And thanks to Pueblo’s abundant supply of annual sunshine the energy savings potential is huge. The upfront investment for solar is expensive but so are electricity bills. If I could find a good way to finance the investment, it would pay for itself over 4-6 years and save a boatload of money thereafter. So financing is one hurdle that needs to be overcome (perhaps a good subject for a separate post) but when I learned of another hurdle I was stunned.
Somehow, in their infinite wisdom, the Colorado PUC has allowed Black Hills to control solar installation capacity. So, if you want to install solar on your roof-top you must first get permission from Black Hills. And we’re not talking about a permit to be sure your equipment and installation are up to code. They can simply prohibit installation of additional solar energy production capacity.
Are you kidding me?
The whole reason I want solar is to stop Black Hills from bleeding me to death. Yes, the blood sucking corporation who monopolizes electricity distribution in Pueblo somehow has been given permission to dictate how many solar installations will be allowed and how much energy these installations can generate. Since Black Hills Corporation (owner of Black Hills Energy) is in the coal, natural gas and oil business this is pretty much asking the fox to guard the hen house.
If I want to build a clothesline in the backyard to dry towels, sheets and clothing do I need to ask Black Hills for permission?
Now some of the old guard whose opinions are regularly published in the Pueblo Chieftain will likely say fault lies with the environmental movement on the left because of new requirements involving renewable energy sources driving up costs. Who is paying these people to shill for the carbon energy industry? Do they get a lifetime supply of free gas for their Chevy Suburban? In any case, if you read these blowhards please reserve judgement until you’ve read this article by Paul Huber of EcoSol. He does a good job of clarifying what’s really going on and how Black Hills is fleecing our community.
The Colorado PUC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing Black Hills to loot and plunder the citizens of Pueblo. By the way, the same government agency is also allowing Health Insurance companies to fleece lower income communities, including Pueblo.
Also, here is the contact information provided on their website.
Consumer Assistance & Complaints – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday
- Online Complaint forms – from our home page, click “Consumers”, then “Comments & Complaints“
- PUC Consumer Complaints via email: email@example.com (NOT case sensitive address)
- Local Complaint Line: 303-894-2070
Outside Metro Area Complaint Line (but within Colorado only) 1-800-456-0858
- Consumer Assistance & Complaints fax line: 303-894-2532