LIHEAP Clearinghouse News Bulletin - June 2015

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Cooling Programs are Gearing Up for the Season

Even though extreme temperatures haven't hit most of the country yet, many LIHEAPs across the nation are starting, or have started, a summer cooling program. Twenty-seven states offer some type of cooling assistance. Six of the 27 states offer cooling as part of a year-round program. A few of the states provide cooling assistance through summer crisis if there is a weather-related emergency or if there are funds available after the heating season.

Most programs offer assistance with electric bills, and many provide funds for cooling equipment repair/replacement or have fans available.

Some cooling programs target at-risk households, which are defined as seniors, persons with disabilities, families with young children, and those with medical conditions that would be aggravated by extreme heat. In some states, households with one or more vulnerable members will receive an additional benefit amount.

Arizona has taken steps to address the issue of heat-related deaths in the state. A study prepared by the Arizona Department of Health Services linked heat to an average of 118 deaths each year in that state.

Researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) examined the relationships between heat, socioeconomic status, land use and health in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The research team found the highest risk of heat deaths in inner-city neighborhoods that have lower household incomes, higher proportions of minorities and elderly living alone, less vegetation, and hotter microclimates.

A project by ASU's Urban Sustainability Lab developed an interactive web-based map for cities to advertise cooling centers and hydration stations. Cooling centers are public locations where people can get refuge from the heat and hydration stations provide free bottled water. The map,, launched in Spring 2014 for Phoenix and Los Angeles and now includes San Diego.

Missouri also has a map that makes cooling centers easy to locate. Through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, the state worked with local health officials to create an interactive, online map of cooling centers.

Several other states including Illinois, New York, Oklahoma and Texas provide cooling centers for relief from extreme temperatures.


Regulatory Commissions Consider Multi-State Utility Merger

In April 2014, Exelon Corporation and Pepco Holdings, Inc. announced they had agreed to merge into one entity that would serve 10 million customers and have a rate base of $26 billion. The merger needed the approval of regulatory commissions in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington D.C. As the regulators considered the merger, low-income advocates warned about the impacts it could have on their constituents and asked regulators to make sure funding went to help vulnerable families.

By October 2014, the Virginia Corporation Commission had signed off on the merger. In mid-February 2015, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved a settlement agreement related to the merger, and the Public Service Commissions in Delaware and Maryland followed suit in May. All of the decisions involved regulators establishing customer benefits in the form of rate credits, energy efficiency, and charitable contributions. Most regulators reserved the right to increase the amount of the customer benefits if their colleagues in the other states approved higher per-customer benefits. While the numbers may change, the following table provides an overview of the benefit levels established in three states where regulators approved merger settlements.

Regulatory Entity
Date of Ruling
Rate Credit for All Customers
Energy Efficiency for All Customers
Charitable Contributions
New Jersey Board of Public Utilities
$62 million ($114 per customer)
$15 million
$7.09 million (over 10 years)
Delaware Public Service Commission
$40 million ($128 per customer)
$2 million (low income only)
$6.99 million (over 10 years)
Maryland Public Service Commission
$66 million ($100 per customer)
$43.2 million (low income only)
$6.56 million (over 10 years)
$168 million
$60.2 million
$20.64 million (over 10 years)

Some regulators looked specifically at low-income issues, especially when it came to energy efficiency. As noted in the table above, the Delaware agreement set aside $2 million especially for low-income energy efficiency programs, while also stating that the utility would “maintain, enhance, and promote programs that provide energy assistance for low-income customers.” New Jersey’s agreement also included a specific directive that the utility offer low-income efficiency programs.

When it came to the energy efficiency funds in Maryland, the Public Service Commission (PSC) included provisions that at least $6.3 million would go to “limited-income customers.” The PSC also required forgiveness of low-income customers’ debt for the last two years, and it ordered the company to work with the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) and other stakeholders to discuss the development of an arrearage management program. During proceedings, NCLC argued for a higher rate credit amount, as did Public Citizen, which said the customer benefit amounts were “a fraction of the $1.842 billion windfall for Pepco shareholders under the proposed acquisition.” It told the PSC that benefits should be set at $365 million, significantly higher than what the PSC ultimately approved.

The final jurisdictional entity to take up the merger is the Washington D.C. PSC, and it is already facing opposition. The D.C. Attorney General, members of the District’s council, and half of the District’s neighborhood commissions have joined low-income advocates in voicing their opposition. Advocates claim the merger may expose low-income customers to higher utility bills in subsequent years, which means less money for other essentials such as food and rent.

NCLC filed comments with the PSC asking that it “pay particular attention” to how the merger would impact low-income communities in D.C. It encouraged the PSC to make sure that Exelon improved the energy security of low-income ratepayers should the merger happen. The PSC has yet to take any definitive action on the proposed merger.

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Supplemental LIHEAP Funds: Source and Spending, January 19, 2015. This issue brief provides a look at the type of funds that state and tribal grantees receive to supplement their energy assistance programs and how these funds are spent.

Integrating Health and Human Service Programs to Expand Eligibility, January 30, 2015. The report examines how existing networks of state governments and nonprofit agencies could be integrated to help locate individuals who are eligible for subsidies and streamline their enrollment in health insurance, Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and LIHEAP programs.

Leveraging and LIHEAP: Providing Non-Federal Funds for Energy Assistance, February 6, 2015. Explores how the use of leveraging funds can be a beneficial way for LIHEAPs to supplement funds used to provide assistance to low-income customers who might otherwise miss out on the opportunity for aid. The report examines the various sources of this supplemental funding and also looks at the federal leveraging incentive program.

Renewable Energy and LIHEAP: Solar Targets Energy Burdens, February 13, 2015. The four-page issue brief examines a few places in the LIHEAP statute that might help facilitate the use of LIHEAP funds for renewable energy projects.

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The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, organizations or program activities imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or compliance with HHS regulations.
National Center for Appropriate Technology News Bulletin, Number 26 June 2015

In This Issue

Cooling Programs are Gearing Up for the Season

Regulatory Commissions Consider Multi-State Utility Merger

What's New on Our Website

Fiscal Year 2015 Tribal Grantee Plans

Fiscal Year 2015 Subsidized and Rental Household Eligibility and Benefits

Low-Income Energy Events

September 15-18, 2015 NASCSP Annual Conference, Sacramento, CA.


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