The Bulletin Board

Interim funding approved for electric assistance program

By: - October 4, 2021 12:35 pm
An electric meter on the side of a house

The amendment would set a deadline for the Public Utilities Commission to make decisions on future energy efficiency plans. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A program to help low-income people struggling to pay their electricity bills has been funded, but only for October and November.

Each year, the state’s electric utilities submit budgets to fund the program that must be approved by the Public Utilities Commission before they can go into effect. 

The program budget usually runs from October through September of the following year, but this year the utilities commission approved the budgets only on an interim basis. Commission members waited until the day before the program budget was supposed to take effect to approve it and did so only after a nudge from utilities. 

The utilities have been required to submit budgets for the program since 2002, but this is the first year that the newly formed Department of Energy has played a role.

The utilities commission said it would need more time and information before making a decision about the budgets for the rest of the year, according to the order issued on Sept. 30.  The order states that the commission will “establish a process” that the Department of Energy and utilities can use to analyze the budgets. The commission is also asking the department to file a recommendation within 40 days.

The requested program budget for 2021 to 2022 is 2.29 percent higher than the previous year, increasing from $1.97 million to just over $2 million.

Over 28,000 electric utility customers are enrolled in the electric assistance program, according to the Department of Energy. Eligible customers receive a discount on their monthly electricity bills ranging from 8 percent to 76 percent, depending on the size of the household and income. The program is funded through the system benefits charge that all electric consumers in the state pay into.  

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.