Ohio has a proud history of helping low-income households cut their electric bills through energy-efficiency programs, including weatherizing homes and replacing outdated appliances.
When low-income families have an opportunity to participate in these programs, energy usage goes down – resulting in significant savings for them and cost reductions for all Ohioans because of decreased electricity demand. Further, the drop in energy usage also means low-income households receiving weatherization services are less likely to need utility bill assistance paid for through rate surcharges – another way every Ohioan benefits from energy-efficiency programs.
Unfortunately, in 2019, the Legislature dealt a major blow to these programs when passing House Bill 6. The legislation removed the mandates that investor-owned utilities must meet in providing energy-efficiency programs.
The Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy has focused its advocacy efforts on restoring these programs for Ohioans through legislative and regulatory solutions.
On the legislative front, OPAE is working with its members to support passage of House Bill 389, a bipartisan effort that would essentially restore energy-efficiency programs.
Last year, the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee approved the measure. Anticipating the legislation soon could be on the Ohio House floor, OPAE has engaged with legislators on the legislation’s benefits for low-income families and all Ohio residents.
For example, 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.
The bill also includes the following guidelines:
- Before an energy-efficiency program is approved, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (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
While the Ohio House contemplates HB 389, OPAE also is pushing for a regulatory path to reinstate energy-efficiency programs.
The PUCO is hosting energy-efficiency workshops in March and April to solicit the views of stakeholders on whether energy-efficiency programs are helpful in managing energy costs, among other things.
In launching these workshops, the PUCO sought input from organizations such as OPAE to help drive these conversations.
OPAE submitted comments supporting energy-efficiency programs not only for their ability to reduce energy costs, but for the positive impact they have on the health of families by identifying gas leaks, unsafe wiring, and appliances ducting carbon monoxide in homes.
While supporting new legislation bringing back these efforts, OPAE also argues that the PUCO already has the statutory authority – indeed an obligation – to offer voluntary energy-efficiency programs. While the PUCO lacks the ability itself to provide these services, the commission can encourage the electric utilities to do so – just as it does natural gas companies.
OPAE is hopeful this line of reasoning will find a receptive audience during PUCO’s workshops – a sentiment that could help open up an additional path for restoring energy-efficiency programs. Beyond sharing this position in its comments, OPAE will be participating in these workshops to advocate for this regulatory solution.
Stay tuned for these regulatory developments – as well as legislative progress – on restoring energy-efficiency programs.