Passage of House Bill 389 would help low-income families

The Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy (OPAE) and its members are meeting with legislators to gain support for passage of legislation promoting energy-efficiency programs to reduce Ohioans’ energy bills.

OPAE’s advocacy efforts come as the Ohio House of Representatives could soon vote on House Bill 389, which would permit the state’s investor-owned electric utilities to bring back energy-efficiency programs.

Last year, the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee approved House Bill 389, a bipartisan effort that addresses the dismantling of the state’s energy-efficiency programs when the Legislature passed House Bill 6 in 2019. House Bill 6 removed the ability of Ohio’s investor-owned utilities to charge for energy-efficiency programs and reduce the state’s overall electric costs.

OPAE testified in support of House Bill 389 during the committee process.

In addition to OPAE, environmental groups, investor-owned utilities, and legislators from both political parties back the legislation.

The bill includes the following guidelines, among others:

  • Before an energy-efficiency program is approved, PUCO must determine the plan will result in cost reductions for residents
  • The annual goal for energy waste reduction is 0.5 percent
  • Business customers will not participate in the energy-efficiency program unless they opt into it
  • Residential customers will be offered the opportunity on the front end to opt out of the new
  • program
  • The bill caps the maximum monthly cost of the new programs at $1.50 for each residential customer choosing to participate
  • The programs will spend these dollars on improving the energy efficiency of homes through proven technologies and products, such as smart thermostats and energy-saving appliances

Beyond those guidelines, House Bill 389 would help lower overall energy costs for low-income families by ensuring 15 percent of energy-efficiency dollars are spent on those households.

Research has shown, when low-income families have an opportunity to participate in these programs, energy usage goes down – resulting in significant cost savings. And that means benefiting families are less likely to need assistance from other programs paid for through rate surcharges.

In his testimony before the House Public Utilities Committee, OPAE Executive Director John Sarver depicted the benefits for all Ohioans when energy-efficiency services are provided to low-income households.

“Electric energy efficiency measures save clients roughly two months of electric bills, and more if they heat and cool with electricity,” Sarver told the committee members. “Customers that receive weatherization services are more likely to pay their bills and less likely to need help from bill payment assistance program. This reduces the costs associated with credit and collection which are driven by the affordability of utility service. Ratepayers benefit from these impacts.”