OPUC workshop looks at impacts of COVID-19 on residential utility customers

Energy Trusts Ryan Crews and Debbie Menashe told commissioners about Energy Trusts efforts to assist consumers during the pandemic, consisting of a LED bulb free gift with community firms and food banks. Energy Trust is likewise promoting totally free Energy Saver Kits which contain energy-saving products and has actually expanded eligibility criteria to assist more individuals get approved for higher Savings Within Reach incentives.

Sherrie Villmark of the not-for-profit Community Energy Project, which helps low-income locals make weatherization and other house upgrades, told commissioners a typical barrier for individuals trying to gain access to support programs is absence of web gain access to. The Oregon Citizens Utility Board recommended energy help programs include things like costs moratoriums, debt forgiveness and payment plans, while real-time information on utility clients who owe cash could assist inform policy modifications.

Energy Trust of Oregon was amongst the participants at an Oregon Utility Commission workshop this month on methods to help property energy consumers impacted by COVID-19.

Local groups are also responding with relief programs. The Portland-based nonprofit Verde, an Energy Trust partner, has actually been delivering food boxes to produced home parks and offering rental help to 125 families that have actually lost more than 50% of their earnings.

One source of relief can be found in the type of increased financing for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which in a common year covers 20% of the requirement for energy support in Oregon. Through the federal CARES Act, the program has an extra $24.5 million for 15 months and has expanded earnings requirements for a few of the additional financing to supply immediate support to more individuals who require it.

OPUC has actually formed an internal COVID-19 response team to consider changes. This team is engaging interested stakeholders and groups to learn more on effects for consumers and methods to support them. Energy Trust is taking part in the series of low-income workshops to offer and discover details on how Energy Trust serves lower-income consumers.

As commissioners heard, numerous Oregonians were currently dealing with high energy problems, which is when energy costs are 6% or more of a homes earnings. Individuals of color and rural Oregonians are more most likely to be energy strained, according to Oregon Housing and Community Services. These companies provide low-income Oregonians with assistance paying energy, lease and other bills and connect them with other support, consisting of food banks. Energy Trust is getting involved in the series of low-income workshops to learn and offer details on how Energy Trust serves lower-income customers.

Other participants in the June 9 workshop consisted of agents from Clackamas County Social Services and APANO. Listen to audio recordings of the workshop here.

As commissioners heard, many Oregonians were currently facing high energy problems, which is when energy costs are 6% or more of a households income. People of color and rural Oregonians are most likely to be energy strained, according to Oregon Housing and Community Services. (Check out this interactive map for geographical energy concern details).

In reaction to COVID-19, Oregons investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities have actually suspended disconnections, are waiving charges for late payments or payments by charge card, and are offering versatile payment choices. Still, utility representatives informed commissioners the portion of clients with past due accounts is increasing. NW Natural has seen a 12% boost in accounts 30 days past due, while PGE has seen a 41% increase.

Meanwhile, local community action firms are reporting a sharp increase in demands for assistance. These agencies offer low-income Oregonians with assistance paying energy, rent and other bills and link them with other assistance, including food banks. According to the Community Action Partnership of Oregon, rental support requests alone have actually increased 500% in recent weeks.

The next public workshop is arranged for June 30, 2020.

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