#SaveEEinWV: AEP EE programs

PSC approves settlement to keep AEP’s energy efficiency programs

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power customers will continue to have access to energy efficiency and demand-response programs but spending will be reduced while benefits are modified, according to a settlement approved by Public Service Commission of West Virginia on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

The settlement reduced the programs to $3.225 million annually, from the proposed $9.1 million. The programs retained in the settlement relate to low-income families hit hardest by recent rate increases.

“We’re encouraged by the settlement since the programs weren’t cut completely,” said Emmett Pepper, executive director of Energy Efficient West Virginia, one of the parties in the PSC case. “The spending reduction, however, is disappointing since fully funded EE programs give consumers – especially families and small businesses on tight budgets – more control over energy bills, create jobs that spur economic growth, and improve the health of both people and buildings.”

The settlement features the potential introduction of a Beneficial Electrification program in 2021 by American Electric Power (AEP), which owns Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power in West Virginia. In order for electrification – switching from fuel to electricity – to be considered Beneficial Electrification, the Regulatory Assistance Project says the electrification must meet at least one of the following conditions without adversely affecting the other two:

1. Saves consumers money over the long run;

2. Enables better grid management; and

3. Reduces negative environmental impacts.

Some examples of potential beneficial electrification projects are: electric vehicle charging stations, plugging in trucks at a truck stop instead of idling, or installing heat pumps in homes that use more expensive fuels for heating. The parties to the case will be exploring potential BE projects over the coming months.

Beneficial Electrification (BE) incorporates the use of cost-effective electric equipment to provide savings to consumers and increase electricity sales. “The new BE program brings Appalachian Power more like a 21st Century utility,” said Pepper. “BE, by definition, is a win-win: cutting costs for consumers and helping the utility increase sales.

“While the settlement process started with the parties far apart on utility operations in the future, we listened to each other with respect and came to an agreement where we could."

EEWV was represented by Earthjustice, the national non-profit environmental law organization. Earthjustice attorneys Chinyere Osuala and Susan Stevens Miller worked tirelessly toward EEWV’s vision to keep energy efficiency programs in West Virginia. “We were faced with the last two utilities in the state to offer residential energy efficiency programs and those programs were on the chopping block, so this was an emergency,” Osuala said. “With this settlement, we are happy that all Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power customers can continue to experience the benefits of energy efficiency programs in their homes, on their bills, and in their communities.”

In April, AEP requested approval from commissioners to implement increases to its energy efficiency and demand-response programs. However, the PSC staff – like they did in 2017 – advocated eliminating AEP’s EE programs.

After becoming a party in the PSC case, EEWV mounted a #SaveEEinWV campaign that advocated expanding EE programs for Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power customers. The PSC received 248 letters and petitions as part of the #SaveEEinWV campaign.