CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Energy Efficient West Virginia, a group of electric utility customers who want to save energy and money on their monthly bills, asked state regulators Tuesday to make a power company develop stronger energy-efficiency programs for its customers.FirstEnergy, an Ohio-based company that operates Mon Power and Potomac Edison in northern West Virginia, has raised its electric rates by more than 30 percent over the past three years, group members said. Mike Harman, a co-founder of Energy Efficient West Virginia, said testimony was filed before the state Public Service Commission on Friday, challenging "what we believe is a very poor offer by the companies, that would fall far short of helping most customers save energy.""Our neighboring states hold companies to more efficient standards," said Sam Hickman, executive director of the West Virginia chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
"In West Virginia, we have among the highest rates of home ownership. But many elderly and low-income folks have no access to loans or equity" on their homes, Hickman said. "We need a more robust plan."Deacon Todd Garland, executive director of the Department of Social Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said, "The Catholic diocese is the second major source of assistance to the elderly and the poor, second only to DHHR [state Department of Health and Human Resources]."Often people need help with their bills," Garland said. "I am in favor of a much stronger insulation program."Energy Efficient West Virginia passed out a summary of their proposals on Tuesday, which include:A low-income program providing "a walk-through energy audit of peoples' homes, with installation of basic measures like compact fluorescent lights, faucet aerators, a low-flow showerhead and a possible refrigerator replacement."A "high-efficiency commercial and industrial lighting program" to provide "incentives for customers [homeowners and businesses] who purchase more efficient lighting, from compact fluorescent lights to LED [light-emitting diode] exit signs."
The organization estimates the cost of its plans will be $17.5 million over five years.Those costs should be spread over all ratepayers, the group argues, "with all residential customers paying for the low-income residential program."The Public Service Commission has scheduled a hearing on these issues on Dec. 1-2.
Investing in energy efficiency, the group argues, will be especially helpful "given our old and inefficient housing stock and historic lack of investment in energy efficiency programs."Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.