New Programs Will Help Keep West Virginians Warm This Winter

Energy efficiency programs for low-income customers will lower electricity costs and create well-paying, local jobs.

Around the country, how much you can expect to spend on your electricity bill every month varies widely and is influenced by a number of factors. The energy sources that generate your electricity, how many other people are part of your electricity network, how that electricity is delivered to your home, the weather, and local and regional regulations are some of the things that determine what you might see on your electricity bill.

West Virginians’ electricity bills are higher than the national average, making the Public Service Commission’s plan to expand the state’s energy efficiency programs welcome news to many still struggling to pay off last winter’s bills.

These programs lower West Virginians’ electricity costs, which impact low-income West Virginians the most. These customers are often forced to choose between paying for food, medicine, or their monthly electricity bill. These programs also improve home comfort and safety and create good-paying local jobs for workers in areas like heating, ventilating, air conditioning, electrical contracting, insulation, and door and window replacement.

Earthjustice has been working with local groups in West Virginia including Citizens Action Group, Solar United Neighbors, and Energy Efficient West Virginia to help ensure that these programs are expanded to help more people.

In November, the Public Service Commission approved an annual $3.75M investment into four residential Energy Efficiency programs for Appalachian Power Company and Wheeling Power Company customers for 2022 and 2023 going above and beyond the $3.3M agreed-to by parties. The first program, the Home Performance Program, offers customers free virtual or in-person home energy audits by a qualified evaluator. The evaluator can install some measures right at the audit to create immediate energy savings and can also help customers find solutions for health and safety issues like mold or leaky roofs. The evaluator also can recommend do-it-yourself fixes for further savings and provides rebates for replacement of older, less efficient home appliances such as refrigerators, clothes washers, and electric dryers, air conditioners, and purifiers, dehumidifiers, and heat pump water heaters.

In sum, Appalachian Power Company and Wheeling Power Company’s $3.75 million investment in energy efficiency measures will include the following programs to help their low-income customers:

  • $1.03M annual investment to the Home Performance Program described above
  • $1,350,000 for Low Income Weatherization. In addition to reducing energy waste, weatherization has significant health and safety benefits. The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy reported that, “After weatherization, families have homes that are more livable, resulting in fewer missed days of work (e.g., sick days, doctor visits) and decreased out-of-pocket medical expenses by an average of $514.”
  • $855,000 for Low Income Multifamily, which identifies multifamily units, often occupied by renters, that can benefit from weatherization, health, and safety measures.
  • $515,000 for Peak Reduction, which pays customers in exchange for allowing the utility to cycle the customer’s air conditioning unit on and off during times of peak energy demand.

Appalachian Power Company and Wheeling Power Company originally proposed $900,000 annually for Low-Income Weatherization — but the Public Service Commission entered an order consistent with testimony from Citizens Action Group, Solar United Neighbors, and Energy Efficient West Virginia showing that this work merited a larger investment.

The commissioners are listening to us on this topic, so let’s speak up! Earlier this month, CAG/SUN/EEWV filed expert testimony urging that West Virginia’s other electric utilities — Monongahela Power Company and The Potomac Edison Company, owned by FirstEnergy — restart their own Energy Efficiency programs, which were shuttered without explanation in 2018. FirstEnergy offers extensive Energy Efficiency options to its customers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey — but nothing for West Virginians.

What can you do to help? Write to the Public Service Commission, applauding their decision in Case 21-0332-E-P to approve and expand the Appalachian Power Company and Wheeling Power Company Efficiency programs. You can also sign up for email alerts from Earthjustice and our partner Energy Efficiency West Virginia so that you don’t miss the chance to participate in future actions. 

Focused on challenging proposed gas plants, primarily in state public utility commissions in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, Raghu is a deputy managing attorney with the Clean Energy Program.

As a senior attorney with Earthjustice's Clean Energy Program, Cassandra specializes in energy law, with much of her time spent working with partners in midwestern and Appalachian states.

Earthjustice’s Clean Energy Program uses the power of the law and the strength of partnership to accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy.