Report: New York REV initiative leaving out low income customers

Dive Brief:

  • New York is working to aggressively overhaul its utility industry through the "Reforming the Energy Vision" process, but a new report from the state's Consumer Protection Board questions whether enough of the benefits will reach low-income customers.
  • While utilities have proposed programs to reach low-income customers, the consumer advocate said the state's plan to fold them into the process relied too heavily on the Home Energy Assistance Program, which does not reach sufficient numbers of customers.
  • According to Politico New York, the report finds the HEAP program fails to enroll at least half of New York's low-income customomers.

Dive Insight:

New York is working to overhaul its utility system — installing microgrids, storage, renewable power and increasingly relying on demand management strategies — but a new report from the state's consumer advocate questions whether regulators have done enough to include low-income customers in the process.

Politico reports on an assessment from the New York Department of State's Consumer Protection Unit, which found the REV process is under-inclusive of low-income ratepaters. “A successful low-income discount program for similarly situated low-income gas and electric customers cannot depend upon whether they were fortunate enough to receive a HEAP grant," the CPU wrote.

New York's high utility bills are having an impact on low-income customers. In 2014 more than 1 million were at least two months late paying a utility bill and a quarter million had their power shut off for failure to pay. Low income advocates have been pushing PSC chair Audrey Zibelman to give them more of a say in how the regulatory body shapes utility business practices.

While the REV process may rely on HEAP, some of the state's utilities are working to propose solutions that include low-income customers. National Grid had proposed installing 100 residential solar photovoltaic systems in a low-income area, collectively trying to reduce power bills in the neighborhood while lowering amounts in arrears. The demonstration project — part of a push to develop new business models for the industry —  was approved by regulators earlier this month.

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Filed Under: Distributed Energy Regulation & Policy