Recent utility rate case settlements have resulted in more money for energy assistance and energy efficiency programs in Ohio. New funding includes the following:
Columbia Gas: A new $2.1 million fund from Columbia Gas of Ohio began providing emergency assistance in March to customers with incomes from 175 to 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines. The fund was created after Ohio regulators ordered Columbia to refund to its customers overcharges involving two sister companies. The funding is distributed through LIHEAP local agencies. Also, as part a rate case settlement approved in December, Columbia is providing $1.85 million over the next five heating seasons to assist low-income customers with bill payments when all other available funds have been exhausted. Additionally, $1.15 million will fund a four-year pilot program to assist 6,000 LIHEAP-eligible customers who are not eligible for the state's Percentage of Income Payment Program. Funding for the company's Warm Choice weatherization program has increased from $5.5 million to $7.1 million per year.
Dominion East Ohio – In January the utility began distributing $1.4 million to fuel funds and local agencies to help income-eligible customers with payment assistance and energy conservation, including $500,000 for the Salvation Army's EnergyShare Program. Dominion's Housewarming Program providing weatherization continues, with funding increased from $3.5 million to $6.5 million per year.
American Electric Power: The utility contributed $1 million to establish a Crisis Response Fund, which is providing energy assistance to households with incomes above LIHEAP eligibility levels, managed by the Ohio Department of Development, the LIHEAP grantee, through 36 community action agencies. It will also provide weatherization kits for low-income households.
Duke Energy: A one-year pilot program for its natural gas customers began in December under which the first 10,000 customers who enroll receive a $4 monthly discount to offset rate increases. It's available to those who earn 175 percent of FPG or less, whose consumption is less than 900 ccf annually and who are not enrolled in the PIPP. Under a March settlement affecting electric ratepayers, Duke will begin a similar program for its low-income electric customers; those already enrolled in the gas program will be enrolled automatically into the electric program. Also, Duke is distributing $1.75 million per year to local agencies for energy assistance for the next two years.
First Energy: As part of a March rate case settlement, the utility will create a fuel fund that will spend $6 million over the next three years to help customers at or below 200 percent of FPG, to be distributed among its member companies,Toledo Edison, Cleveland Electric, and Ohio Edison.
Vectren: Has a $4 monthly bill credit program for up to 5,000 LIHEAP-eligible customers not enrolled in the PIPP in order to offset higher monthly customer charges.
Source: Ohio Office of Consumers Counsel