September 13, 2013 — Over the summer, the Fuel Fund of Maryland (FFM) received approximately $6.22 million for energy assistance and conservation education for low-income customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE). The funding came from the "Customer Investment Fund," which the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered Exelon Corp. to create as part of its merger with Constellation Energy last year.
"We're excited to be able make larger grants to households with immediate needs," says FFM's Bill Freeman. "However, maybe even more exciting is that the funding will make our intake more efficient and allow people to benefit from our grants faster."
FFM responded to a request for proposals issued by the PSC in March 2012. FFM's proposal focused on increasing the number of BGE customers it could assist through:
- Increasing the amount of funds each household receives for bill assistance.
- Increasing the number of offices FFM has throughout BGE's service territory.
- Using technology to streamline the application process and coordinate with other assistance programs, including LIHEAP.
- Expanding its energy-efficiency education program, "Watt Watchers of Maryland."
- Developing the "Energy Assistance Fund," a quasi-endowment created to deal with fluctuations of demand and provide energy assistance for years to come.
FFM asked for about $19.87 million, with $7.5 million of that going directly to low-income customers for bill assistance. FFM stated its proposed three-year program would serve over 100,000 low-income BGE households.
In November 2012, the PSC awarded FFM a total of $14.87 million. The $5 million gap between requested and received funding came out of proposed Energy Assistance Fund. FFM asked for $10 million and received $5 million. In June 2013, the PSC announced FFM's first payment would be for $6.22 million, and FFM received the funds shortly thereafter. The Fuel Fund will receive a total of $8.33 million during Fiscal Year 2014. The PSC will distribute the remaining funds on a semi-annual basis.
The Fuel Fund of Maryland began in 1978. During the energy crisis of the late 1970s, Baltimore City Councilwoman Victorine Q. Adams helped start the earliest version of FFM when a couple in her district froze to death in their home. Adams vowed that would never happen again. Currently, FFM has a network of 16 agencies to which it provides funds and/or matching credits for low-income bill assistance.
Four other entities also received money from the Customer Investment Fund. They are the City of Baltimore, Maryland Energy Administration, a state agency dedicated to maximizing energy efficiency while promoting economic development; Baltimore County; and Comprehensive Housing Assistance, which works to develop and support thriving communities in neighborhoods with a substantial Jewish population.
Sources: Maryland Public Service Commission, Fuel Fund of Maryland