Late last year, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) requested comments on whether the electric utilities’ energy efficiency (DSM) programs should end essentially immediately, or whether they would operate through 2020. It took three months to make up their minds, and the decision issued late last month answered some questions while creating others.
Most importantly, the PUCO ruled that existing DSM programs would continue through 2020. At that point, the mandates for energy efficiency savings which have applied to utilities since 2008 and spurred tremendous growth in energy efficiency programs – including low-income programs – will be gone. It’s been a great ride, but the General Assembly, or more specifically the majorities in both the House and Senate, despise energy efficiency and renewable energy, and finally killed the standards that had improved the lives of every Ohio family and business.
That does not mean the end of electric DSM. As you all know, all the gas utilities have DSM portfolios, all including low-income programs. Community Connections, the FE low-income program, is in place through 2024. So, what about AEP, DP&L and Duke? (I don’t really care about Duke because OPAE members don’t get the money and the programs, other than the ones run by PWC, aren’t very good.)
The good news is that all of the electric utilities have indicated a willingness to continue programs. AEP has informed OPAE that it will request level funding for the Community Assistance Program for the next three years. FE is also filing a portfolio, though OPAE already has funding through a separate settlement. And, DP&L behind the scenes says it will file, though they haven’t made a public commitment.
The decision has caused a potential problem. Some utilities think the Commission requires they stop programs at the end of September, so everything can be finalized by December 31st. Others believe that only rebate programs have to start winding down starting September 30th. OPAE is working with Staff to get clarifications and will get the information out as soon as it is available. Until then, just assume this is a normal three-year close out cycle. We will need to cut off refrigerator orders a little early, particularly given the delays in delivery. And, we may have delays in program startup in the new year since the PUCO has to approve the portfolios, and does not share our sense of urgency in the matter.
Expect regular updates so you can plan production accordingly.