Last update: September 2016
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Rate Assistance and Arrearage Forgiveness
Rhode Island's Utility Restructuring Act of 1996 states that costs for low-income assistance and weatherization programs "shall be included in the distribution rates charged to all other customers" and , using the 2.3 mills per kWh charge specified in the bill, the Public Utility Commission set up a demand-side management (DSM) program in 1997 to include 1) residential customers, 2) large commercial and industrial customers, 3) small commercial and industrial customers, and 4) renewable energy projects.
Starting January 1, 2012, another customer charge, approved by the Commission, required all National Grid gas and electric customers to pay a monthly charge of $0.83. Effective January 1, 2014, the monthly charge was reduced to $0.73 with projected annual revenue between $6.5 and $7.5 million. Annual revenue from the charge is deposited in National Grid's LIHEAP Enhancement Plan fund and is used to reduce arrearages of customers with income equal to or less than 60 percent of state median income. For program year 2015, $10.4 million of the fund was used to provide credits to 24,583 gas and electric customer accounts. The $0.73 charge remained in effect for 2015.
The 1996 restructuring law preserved special rates, known as A-60, for National Grid's low-income customers. Low-income National Grid gas and electric customers pay a reduced distribution charge. Effective February 1, 2013, the Commission approved a $5 customer distribution charge waiver that is applied to A-60 electric customer accounts.
Since 1997, the Energy Efficiency Program (EEP) charge on electric customers has increased from 2.3 mills per kWh to 9.42 mills as of January 1, 2015. The EEP charge for National Grid gas programs increased from $0.600 per decatherm in 2014 to $0.781 per decatherm in 2015.
The Commission annually reviews the design and implementation of National Grid's proposed DSM programs. National Grid's proposed budget for 2015 electric programs included $7.8 million for income-eligible single family residential programs and $2.3 million for multifamily residential programs. National Grid’s proposed budgets for 2015 gas programs were $3.1 million for single family and $1.9 million for multifamily.
The Single Family Low Income Services is for electric and gas LIHEAP-eligible customers living in 1-4 unit buildings. Energy efficiency measures include home energy assessment and installation of energy-saving measures including insulation, air and duct sealing, heating equipment, domestic hot water systems and lighting. The program, administered by the Rhode Island State Energy Office (OER) and local community action agencies, anticipates serving 2,500 electric households and 400 gas households in 2015.
In 2014, National Grid consolidated energy efficiency offerings for income-eligible multifamily properties into the Income Eligible Multifamily programs. These programs offer gas and electric measures that were previously offered as part of Energy Wise or C&I Retrofit. The proposed budget for the 2015 multifamily program is $5 million for services for 3,300 customers.
Another energy efficiency program, EnergyWise, includes all residential customers and offers incentives for gas and electric customers to implement efficiency improvements. Any single family home is eligible for an energy audit at no cost. Auditors will also install energy efficient lighting and water saving devices. Income-eligible customers receive their audit through community action agencies that may coordinate additional efficiency measures through the federal Weatherization Assistance Program. EnergyWise has a projected 2015 budget of $19.9 million for 18,900 participants. The program continues to offer incentives to customers who heat with oil and propane.
Funds collected through the ratepayer charge also supplement OER's state weatherization program that assists low-income households with energy efficiency measures, appliance and furnace replacement and health and safety education. The program received $4.4 million from National Grid in 2015.
On June 29, 2006, Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri signed The Comprehensive Energy Conservation, Efficiency and Affordability Act of 2006 that was expected to start providing energy bill relief to low-income households in FY 2008. The bill was the culmination of several years of effort by advocacy groups to get a low-income energy assistance program.
The Act established the Affordable Energy Fund through a gross receipts tax on both electric and gas utilities and a sales tax on heating oil. Funding was projected to total approximately $15 million per year, with revenues from the 2 percent gross receipts tax providing about $14 million, and about $1 million coming from the heating oil tax.
Starting in November 2007, National Grid low-income customers were to receive a 50 percent discount on natural gas distribution rates , and low-income customers of Block Island Power Company and Pascoag Utility District were to receive a 50 percent reduction on electric charges for usage up to 500 kWh per month.
Docket No. 4527 - National Grid's Energy Efficiency Plan for 2015, November 1, 2014
Docket 4290 – National Grid's LIHEAP Enhancement Plan Reconciliation, September 30, 2015
LIHEAP Enhancement - Legislation
Proposed LIHEAP Enhancement Plan Rates for 2015, October 14, 2014
National Grid - Docket Nos. 4451 & 4453 - Order No. 21298 - approves Energy Efficiency Program