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Appalachian Power files settlement to keep West Virginia energy efficiency programs active


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Appalachian Power has filed a settlement with advocacy groups, saying it will keep its existing energy efficiency and demand response programs in place through the end of 2019, after a West Virginia Public Service Commission staff member suggested the programs be put “on hiatus.”

The settlement, filed Friday, says the company will continue to offer its existing selection of programs, along with the proposed changes to those programs. Energy efficiency and demand response programs (EE/DR) aim to reduce customers’ power consumption, giving them a chance to lower their electric bills in the process.

The PSC, which regulates utilities, has yet to make an official ruling on the case.

Appalachian Power EE/DR programs include in-home energy assessments, energy-efficient product rebates and credits for customers allowing the utility to reduce their strain on the grid in certain situations. Appalachian Power’s EE/DR programs first went into effect in 2011.

The four new programs proposed in the case, though, did not make the settlement’s cut. They were: a program to improve the efficiency of voltage delivered to customer meters; a program promoting the use of a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat; a program providing energy-use reduction services for small businesses; and a program providing energy-use reduction services in multi-family buildings.

In 2018 and 2019, Appalachian Power is expected to spend roughly $8.4 million less by not implementing these new EE/DR programs, according to the settlement.

Randall Short, deputy director of the PSC utilities division, said in a September filing that the proposed programs would lead to a $38.1 million loss, when factoring in lost revenue, and customers would be better off without them.

He added that the PSC staff is “open to putting the company’s energy efficiency programs on hiatus until its effect on rates is clear.”

Groups that are part of the settlement quickly pounced on Short’s testimony, arguing that he didn’t properly weigh customer benefits and that lost revenue is what Appalachian would have collected sans the programs, rather than an actual cost the utility incurs.

In a letter of support for Appalachian Power’s EE/DR programs, Home Builders Association of Greater Charleston President Greg Paxton said operating costs for buildings can be lowered through energy efficiency investments.

“This untapped market potential is huge [in West Virginia] and hits every segment of the workforce,” Paxton said. “Safer and more comfortable homes result in better personal productivity, lowered health care costs, and increased economic improvement statewide.”

Emmett Pepper, executive director of Energy Efficient West Virginia, a group promoting energy efficiency, said he wasn’t sure the programs would survive after Short’s recommendation. So the settlement, he said, is a win for the involved parties.

Energy Efficient West Virginia will still push for an expansion of EE/DR programs like what Appalachian originally proposed going forward, as West Virginia still lags behind other states in that category, according to Pepper.

West Virginia ranked 47th among states in energy efficiency in a 2017 ranking by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The state lacks policies to entice utilities to implement EE/DR programs, and residential customers are experiencing “dramatic price increases,” the report said.

The settlement also says:

Appalachian Power “should make a concerted effort” to address circuits close to their capacity limitations in its EE/DR programs. That way, spending on circuit upgrades can be delayed.

Appalachian Power’s next EE/DR filing, on or before April 1, 2019, should include full and complete descriptions of new programs it proposes, along with a cost/benefits test to measure the programs’ effectiveness.

A group of the parties involved in the settlement should attempt to make a recommendation to Appalachian Power by Dec. 1, 2018, on the cost/benefit test to be used for EE/DR measurements.

Reach Max Garland at [email protected], 304-348-4886 or follow @MaxGarlandTypes on Twitter.

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