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An integrated approach to low-income energy affordability for a restructured world

Description

In the context of retail electric competition, various mechanisms have been proposed to address threats to low-income energy affordability. Most proposals include the use of ratepayer for (a) low income bill payment support (e.g., rate discounts) and/or (b) energy efficiency programs specifically designated for low-income customers. An integrated approach to both energy efftciency and lowincome bill payment is being tested in New Jersey. The program specifically targets payment-troubled customers and those with the lowest incomes. It combines a three-part approach to energy affordability: (1) deep and comprehensive gas and electric efficiency measures; (2) extensive customer energy education, with the goals of both a) empowering participants with the skills and knowledge to gain control of their energy situation and b) securing “action commitment” that the customer carries out as a “partner” to save energy and lower their utility bills; and (3) an affordable payment plan which includes extended payment of arrearages, partial arrearage forgiveness, and a bill discount for those in the lowest income tier who maintain their partnership obligations. This paper describes the E-Team Partners program design, presents preliminary impact evaluation results for the first 7,000 participants, and discusses the attributes of this model in a restructured environment.