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NC Utility Launches New Energy Efficiency Program

October 24, 2014—Earlier this week, Duke Energy announced it is using $20 million in shareholder money to launch its "Helping Home Fund" program. Split between two Duke entities, the Fund will offer weatherization, replacement of heating/cooling systems, and other health and safety upgrades to low-income customers with incomes up to 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

The new program was part of a settlement reached between Duke and the North Carolina Public Staff as part of the utility's 2013 rate case. The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved the settlement in February 2014. In its order, the Commission stated the fund would help mitigate the impact of Duke's rate increase on low-income customers and the "long-term benefits of weatherizing homes and replacing inefficient heating/cooling systems will indeed provide substantial relief for low-income customers."

Duke also promoted the program as a benefit to its many rural low-income customers that lack access to natural gas and use older, inefficient systems run with propane or kerosene. These customers, the utility stated, have heating costs that are two to three times higher than households using electric heat pumps. Therefore, Duke plans to use some program funds to replace the inefficient systems with electric heat pumps.

The $20 million for the Helping Home Fund will be allocated by Duke Energy as follows:

  • Duke Energy Progress:
    • $3 million: Weatherization measures, health and safety upgrades, and appliance replacements
    • $7 million: Heating and cooling system replacements
  • Duke Energy Carolinas
    • $3 million: Health and safety upgrades and appliance replacements
    • $7 million: Heating and cooling system replacements

Duke is contracting with the North Carolina Community Action Association to administer the program. Funds may be available as early as January 2015.

Sources: Duke Energy, North Carolina Utilities Commission