New Hampshire Legal Assistance

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NHLA Represents LISTEN Community Services in Filing Motion to Reconsider PUC Energy Efficiency Program Order

Posted Jan 04, 2022

LISTEN Community Services has joined New Hampshire’s utility providers, the Consumer Advocate, energy contractors, environmental advocates, community action agencies and the Department of Energy in seeking to reverse the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) decision to cut funding for state-run energy efficiency programs. The decision to reduce funding was part of the PUC’s rejection of a triennial energy efficiency plan that would have increased funding for energy efficiency projects.

New Hampshire Legal Assistance will be representing LISTEN on behalf of low-income families who will be adversely affected by this decision, households looking to save money and keep their homes warm amid rising energy costs.

“The Commission’s decision will result in irreparable financial harm to low-income ratepayers,” said Ray Burke, Director of NHLA’s Energy and Utility Justice Project. “Given the rising energy costs forecasted this winter, the PUC’s decision could not come at a worse time for low-income households who were anxiously awaiting the installation of energy efficiency measures.”

The PUC’s decision cut funding by reducing the System Benefits Charge (SBC), which is the portion of a customer’s monthly electric bill that funds energy efficiency projects. Despite the decrease to the SBC, customers’ bills are still expected to increase this winter due to various factors impacting global energy markets, including the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What seems to be getting forgotten is that energy efficiency reduces demand for electricity, pushing rates down for everyone in the long run,” Burke said.

Through its Housing Helpers and Heating Helpers programs, LISTEN provides critical support to individuals and families in the Upper Valley who are struggling to cover their housing and utility costs.

Angela Zhang, Programs Director at LISTEN, recently received a call from a concerned client who believes she will not be able to afford her heating bills this winter now that the planned installment of energy efficiency measures has been indefinitely postponed.

“Weatherization and energy efficiency are some of the most important tools to help low-income households save money on heating bills, especially during this unpredictable time,” Zhang said. “We hope the PUC makes the right decision and reverses its position on this matter.”

“This decision eliminates the framework for the state’s efficiency programs that has widespread, bipartisan support without any clear guidance about the path forwards,” said Burke. “At worst, this order could mean the end of low-income energy efficiency programs.”

In response to the requests to reverse the order, the PUC has suspended parts of the order while it fully considers the requests. Unfortunately, the parts of the decision that are still in effect mean that the programs are still suspended indefinitely. The PUC has 30 days to respond to all of the issues raised in the requests.