Groups aim to expand access to North Carolina energy efficiency benefits

Upgrades to improve a home's energy efficiency can significantly cut a family's monthly power bill and make the home safer, healthier, and more comfortable. (© iStock)

Recognizing that energy efficiency remains the cleanest, cheapest energy resource, SELC recently filed comments in the North Carolina Utilities Commission in support of changes sought by Duke Energy to its Helping Home Fund—a $20 million, low-income ratepayer assistance program. SELC represents the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the North Carolina Housing Coalition, the North Carolina Council of Churches, and North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light in this docket.

Duke Energy’s efficiency program has the potential to make a significant impact on the bottom line for low-income households, where energy bills require a disproportionate amount of monthly expenses. Energy efficiency improvements such as appliance upgrades, heating/cooling system replacements, wall, floor and ceiling insulation, and duct sealing and repair can greatly improve energy usage in a home, saving families hundreds of dollars every year. These upgrades help to lower customer bills, improve the health and comfort of homes, reduce emissions of carbon and other harmful air pollutants, and create jobs. Low-income families in North Carolina have the most to gain from these efficiency upgrades, but face the biggest obstacles to paying for those investments.

Duke Energy’s proposal includes several commendable improvements to the Helping Home Fund, such as increasing spending limits for home health and safety repairs or appliance replacements and expanding the program to include the facilities of shelters and other nonprofit agencies that serve low-income individuals.

The comments submitted also recommended that Duke Energy take additional steps to improve low-income energy efficiency in North Carolina. Duke Energy could use existing utility data to better target customers with the highest energy burdens to receive assistance. Another improvement would be offering a debt-free, on-bill financing program for low and moderate-income customers wishing to undertake energy efficiency improvements. Duke Energy also should commit to further investments in low-income energy efficiency by continuing to fund programs like this one after the current capital is allocated.

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