Dayton Power & Light’s Smart Energy Community Program (still don’t like that name) is back into the field. AEP’s Community Assistance Program is slated to reopen on July 1st. The AEP Program got off to a slow start, spending only 13% of its funding prior to closure because of the pandemic. DP&L was at 30%. We have some work to do.
Both programs are slated to end on December 31, 2020. The prospects for continuation are good, but the timing is a problem. AEP has included the Community Assistance Program as a part of the DSM portfolio it is proposing as a part of its recently filed distribution rate case; AEP committed to filing a case before June of this year in a prior settlement. The problem is that AEP has moved to extend the procedural schedule, which is already pretty long. Our projection is that the earliest we could have a settlement in place would be September 2021.
DP&L has not yet filed for a new DSM portfolio. It is currently tied up in negotiations over a smart grid rollout, which would cost Dayton-area customers upwards of $500 million. OPAE has been assured by Company staff that they intend to propose an extension of the current program, but the timeline is also problematic. If DP&L filed tomorrow, the likelihood of having a program in place before April 2021 is negligible.
Carryover funds offer us a potential transition. OPAE projects that AEP will have $2.1 million in unspent funds, and DP&L will have around $700,000 remaining. The money will have already been collected. If it is not spent, it will be refunded. But given the economic hardship caused by the pandemic, spending it seems the best idea for clients and folks whose jobs are supported by the programs.
OPAE’s legislative representatives Steve Tugend and Mike Culp from Kegler-Brown have been working a proposal developed to authorize the funds to rollover. A legislative fix is necessary because HB 6, the nuclear plant bailout bill, eliminated the energy efficiency mandates that have reduced Ohio’s electricity use by 17.5% over the past 11 years. This eliminated authority for the current programs. Only an amendment will resolve the problem. The FirstEnergy Community Connections Program is not affected.
We may need agencies to contact their Representatives and Senators. OPAE will be in touch once we have a clear path and a plan to get this amendment approved. Steve and Mike have been able to gather pretty significant support from the majority. Word is that Senate President Obhof is looking for opportunities to retain and expand jobs. Forty jobs depend on the AEP and DP&L funding. On the House side, Rep. Bill Seitz, a long-time supporter of weatherization, is taking the lead for the amendment.