Utility Settlements Provide More Low-Income Funds In WV and NC

March 8, 2013 — Additional energy assistance is coming to low-income customers in West Virginia and North Carolina due to settlements announced in March.

The West Virginia funding resulted from a 2012 settlement between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Constellation Energy Commodities Group. The Commodities Group agreed to create and fund an account to benefit low-income electric customers in its service area, which includes West Virginia.

In early March, the West Virginia Public Service Commission announced that the state's one-time payment of nearly $250,000 was going to the Dollar Energy Fund. The fund will distribute the money through its West Virginia Utility Assistance Program. Eligible households can have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. During 2011-2012, the fund helped 36,349 low-income customers, who received more than $7 million in rate assistance.

In North Carolina, Progress Energy Carolinas will make a one-time contribution of $20 million to programs helping low-income customers pay their energy bills and access job training. The funding came via an agreement between the utility and the North Carolina Public Staff, the consumer-protection division of the North Carolina Utilities Commission. SEC filings by Progress Energy stated the funds will be distributed through local agencies and organizations, although the organizations were not named.

The agreement was part of a larger rate case involving Progress Energy. While the additional funding will help low-income customers, the agreement also endorsed an overall 5.7 percent increase in rates over the next two years. The utility had originally asked for an 11 percent increase. The agreement didn't settle all the issues of the larger rate case, and the Utilities Commission will be holding additional hearings and issuing a final ruling later this year.

Sources: Media reports, West Virginia Public Service Commission, SEC filings.