JOURNAL OF ENERGY ASSISTANCE

  

Welcome to the Journal of Energy Assistance, a National Low Income Energy Consortium publication established to provide relevant, valuable, appropriate and accurate information that will add to the knowledge base of stakeholders in the energy assistance community. Articles contained in the Journal of Energy Assistance represent the opinions and conclusions of the respective authors. Unless otherwise stated, the articles reflect neither the views or nor an endorsement by the Journal’s Editorial Board.

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Advocacy

Summary: Since 1981, the federal government has provided energy assistance to low-income households through the Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This program, coupled with state funding and with mandatory and voluntary utility programs, has been successful in reducing energy costs, particularly home heating costs, for low-income families. The majority of U.S. households experience home heating expense volatility due to the year-to-year fluctuation in wholesale energy prices, unpredictable winter weather and from the hegemony of utility hedging programs. In this analysis, author Tom Matthews advocates establishment of a federal government-backed hedging program to dramatically reduce the year-to-year home heating cost volatility experienced by LIHEAP recipient households. Such a program, he argues, would benefit low-income households, the federal government and utilities.

Summary: Entergy Corporation, an electric company operating in some of the poorest states in the United States, commissioned Jerrold Oppenheim and Theo MacGregor in 2006 to examine the potential impact that investing in the eradication of poverty could have on all U.S. households. The result was a 20-page report titled The Economics of Poverty: How Investments to Eliminate Poverty Benefit All Americans. While the full report addresses how an investment in the elimination of poverty could affect health, education, employment, homelessness, hunger and crime, this analysis focuses primarily on the energy-related findings contained in the full report and in a report the authors prepared for Entergy in 2001.

Analysis

Summary:  More than a dozen states have recently designed and implemented energy-affordability plans that benefit low-income customers.  Many others have considered how to best implement new affordability programs.  These plans have usually been funded with ratepayer dollars and aim to supplement the state’s LIHEAP and other energy assistance programs while minimizing administrative costs. APPRISE has evaluated several energy-affordability programs and has a comprehensive understanding of potential benefits and drawbacks that may result from different program models. In this paper, APPRISE describes options for designing such a program and provides information on the advantages and disadvantages of models for achieving several program goals.  APPRISE, headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, is a nonprofit research institute dedicated to collecting and analyzing data and information to assess and improve public programs. 

Summary:  Because of the persistent gap between available funds and the number of households that qualify for assistance, only about 5.7 million low-income households -- roughly 15 percent of the 38 million that were eligible -- received help  through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in 2006. In an October 2006 study republished here, the American Gas Association concluded that only a combination of action by Congress to substantially increase financial assistance to low-income families for their energy bills in fiscal year 2006 and a mild winter that reduced heating demand averted a potential energy crisis for families faced with increased heating fuel costs.

Case Studies

Summary: Energy Outreach Colorado is one of many organizations that help limited income people pay their home energy bills, but it’s one of only a handful that help nonprofit human service facilities afford theirs. Nonprofits, like many of the low-income households they serve, can be adversely impacted by rising energy costs. As a result, they may face the difficult decision of whether to cut services or to charge a fee for services in order to offset their skyrocketing energy bills. This case study examines an collaborative program in which EOC helps nonprofits pay their energy bills.

Summary: Central Missouri Community Action is completing its fourth year in contracting with the Missouri Department of Social Services Family Support Division to implement the Energy Assistance (EA) component of LIHEAP. Prior to this, Missouri's EA was implemented through local county welfare offices. Although bureaucratic procedures are necessary and important to ensure proper implementation of public policy, CMCA had come to realize that unnecessary bureaucracy had become a barrier to effectively serving the spirit of public policy at our agency. In this case study, authors Randy Cole and Chris Macy describe how CMCA made its EA program paperless through digital imaging and restructured the entire process to increase efficiency and overcome traditional bureaucratic barriers.

Summary:  Individuals and organizations throughout the country working to assist low-income utility consumers are continually looking for new ways to help them to achieve their goals. This article describes how the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) was able to successfully launch one such tool: “Project Stay Connected” in Massachusetts. The project has resulted in the training of over 1,200 front-line human services staff in the basic rights of utility customers; distribution of over 2,000 copies of the project’s handbook, Utilities Advocacy for Low-Income Households; establishment of an e-mail list-serve that now has over 300 subscribers; and numerous advocacy successes in terms of protecting individual customers from termination, enrolling 60,000 new low-income customers onto discount rates and establishing better payment policies for customers in arrears.

Research

Summary: Three well-known researchers within the energy assistance community – David Carroll and Jackie Berger of APPRISE and Roger Colton of Fisher Sheehan and Colton – joined forces in late 2006 and early 2007 to conduct a national study of ratepayer-funded low-income energy programs. Their findings were presented during a plenary forum at the 21st Annual National Low Income Energy Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 6, 2007. The Journal is providing the executive summary of their report

Feedback

  •   Do You Have a Comment or Submission?

We welcome your views on any of the articles that appear in the Journal of Energy Assistance and also encourage interested parties to submit material for publication. If you have a question, want to comment on an article or wish to offer material for consideration by the editorial board, please feel free to contact dfox@nliec.org. Comments will appear in future issues of the Journal.

 

 


 

National Low Income Energy Consortium

 

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