Many households find it challenging to afford basic needs, including energy. Recent macroeconomic trends have exacerbated these challenges. There are great variations in need from state to state, and from one utility service territory to another.

This white paper on energy affordability includes the perspectives of three experts: a low-income customer expert at an energy utility in Maryland, an executive at a not-for-profit energy assistance agency in Pennsylvania, and a former state utility commissioner from California.

Choices can be useful to low income customers, including bill payment options, more frequent (e.g., daily) updates about usage, more energy efficiency programs (weatherization; appliance replacement), and alternative rate designs. But too much choice may be confusing.

There is agreement that experimentation is needed by utilities, and that their regulators and legislators need to be “on board” to allow experimentation and to reform the rules and regulations to allow new options and offerings. Currently, several states require that every residential customer take the same service level or quality—to ensure fairness and equity—when some variation could better serve low- to moderate-income households.

DEFG’s Low Income Energy Issues Forum will continue to compile information about innovative policies and programs that can help to close the gap between what vulnerable energy consumers can pay and their current utility bills.

Filed Under: Low Income