The Public Utilities Commission finally ruled on the Vectren DSM portfolio yesterday. The support was pretty strong, a flat out denunciation of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsels efforts to kill off all residential and small commercial efficiency programs, and transfer the funding from the two low-income programs – VWP 1 and VWP 2 – to a bill payment assistance program to be run by the United Way. VWP-1 serves clients with incomes from 0-200% FPL using $1.1 million. An additional $1 million is allocated to VWP-2, which serves clients with incomes from 201-300% FPL. The programs have been in place for 14 years.

This was a critical decision. Had the old Chairman, the one who left after allegations he received a $4 million payment from FirstEnergy just prior to becoming Chair, still been on the bench, it might not have come out so well. He had led a multi-year effort in the General Assembly to eliminate energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, having scared his industrial clients to death with projected high rate impacts. Funny thing is that he was also a firm supporter of low-income programs, and helped OPAE get electric PIPP in the statute. I guess the old adage ‘no permanent friend, no permanent enemies’ remains true.

This decision also sets the stage for a series of Commission workshops on the future of energy efficiency programs. The legislature knocked off the electric programs, while the Commission has continued to approve gas programs, and has separate authority to continue electric programs. The question is, will they use the authority? OPAE will be doing some organizing around these workshops. I think it’s about time the Commission heard from the folks in the field.

By May or June, we should have $900,000 from the DP&L Smart Grid settlement. These funds are coming from the DP&L Foundation, so they are simply sending us a check. Hope this makes it easier to pay the dues invoice we just sent out.