How about some good news? July brings some for low-income residents of North Carolina in the form of $6 million in new funding for energy-saving, health, and safety improvements to their homes.
Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) project partners helped secure a settlement with Duke Energy in the pending rate cases that includes a contribution of $3 million in each of the next two years (total $6) to the state’s Helping Home Fund. This important program delivers a suite of energy efficiency improvements and critical health and safety repairs, including heating and cooling upgrades and appliance replacement.
As of 2018, the Helping Home Fund has assisted more than 4,300 North Carolinians most burdened by high energy bills, and this new funding will boost participation. A study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and EEFA found the median household in Charlotte, for example, spent 4 percent of their income on energy, while the median low-income household spent about twice that much. And the most under-resourced households spent more than 3.5 times as much!
The Helping Home Fund is administered by the North Carolina Community Action Association and provides crucial funding for its member agencies that provide weatherization assistance to low-income households. This money will allow North Carolina to make the kind of progress it needs to remain a leader among its Southern neighbors when it comes to providing opportunities for the benefits of energy efficiency to all. This assistance will be a vital lifeline for some of North Carolina’s most vulnerable families, lowering their utility bills, making their homes more comfortable, and improving their air quality.
This investment represents another step-in bringing energy efficiency to all North Carolinians. As low-income North Carolinians face down the Coronavirus pandemic and its attendant recession, this money will provide much-needed savings on energy bills.
The settlement reached with Duke also included a commitment to develop new energy-efficiency pilot programs in North Carolina that will serve the needs of low-income households. We look forward to working with Duke and the existing Duke Energy Collaborative to launch and scale up those programs. The Collaborative is a stakeholder group that works with the state’s biggest electric utilities, Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas, to provide feedback and guidance on their energy efficiency programs. Members of the Collaborative include parties to the settlement, such as EEFA partners North Carolina Housing Coalition and North Carolina Justice Center.
One item in the settlement also warrants ongoing engagement from advocates, including EEFA partners—the tariff-based financing pilot. If designed well, this program can eliminate the upfront cost of energy efficiency measures for residential customers and provide savings on electricity bills. We are committed to working with Duke and other stakeholders to develop this pilot program with strong consumer protections.
This settlement is a great step forward. And we will work with regulators and utility officials to build on it with future, greater investments in energy efficiency in low-income communities.