Case No. GNR-E-12-01, Notice of Public Workshop
March 9, 2012
Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712
PUC workshop to address low-income weatherization programs
Which factors should be considered to assess the need for and the cost of low-income weatherization programs is the topic of an Idaho Public Utilities Commission staff workshop March 19 and 20.
The commission has directed all three of the major investor-owned electric utilities with customers in Idaho to participate in the workshop. Other groups participating include those who are advocates of low-income weatherization programs, including the Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho (CAPAI).
Rocky Mountain Power, which serves about 70,000 customers in eastern Idaho, filed an application with the commission last year asking that it not be required to continue providing the commission with evaluations of its low-income weatherization program, because it believes the program, while important and beneficial to individual customers, is not cost-effective for the utility systemwide unless non-energy benefits are included. (Non-energy benefits include items such as reduction in customers' arrearages, bad-debt write-off for utilities and reductions in customer disconnects and re-connects.) Further, Rocky Mountain asked the commission to acknowledge that low-income weatherization is an acceptable part of the utility’s portfolio and should be continued.
In Rocky Mountain’s most recent rate case, CAPAI disputed the utility’s finding that low-income weatherization is not cost-effective. A general definition of cost-effective is that the cost of the measures taken to make homes more energy efficient is less than the amount saved through reduced energy consumption. In that rate case, the commission declined a request by CAPAI that Rocky Mountain increase low-income weatherization funding by 26 percent. Instead, the commission opened a separate case to determine the appropriate criteria for establishing funding levels for low-income weatherization and directed Rocky Mountain, Idaho Power Company and Avista Utilities to participate. The March 19-20 workshop is part of that case.
Low-income weatherization can include any number of steps to increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption for low-income residents including replacement of light fixtures, insulation, appliance repair or replacement, air sealing and window and door improvements.
The workshop will examine factors that should or should not be considered when determining the need for a low-income weatherization program including number of low-income customers, number of customers on weatherization waiting lists, poverty and unemployment rates and other factors.
The workshop will also address how the commission should measure cost-effectiveness of weatherization programs and the curriculum of conservation education programs.
Rocky Mountain Power partners with two non-profit weatherization agencies that install energy efficiency measures in eligible households at no cost to the residents. Rocky Mountain rebates the agencies 85 percent of the cost of the energy efficiency measures. The remaining funds come from federal sources. The commission has directed that Rocky Mountain provide $300,000 for low-income weatherization each year.
The workshop begins at 10 a.m. on March 19 and 9 a.m. on March 20 in the commission hearing room at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise. The workshop ends at 4:30 p.m. both days. Following the workshop, commission staff will prepare a report of its findings and recommendations.
More information about the case is on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on the electric icon, then on “Open Electric Cases,” and scroll down to Case No. GNR-E-12-01.