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How an Arkansas Electric Co-Op Tripled Efficiency Program Participation

It’s a scene played out across the country: a rural electricity service area where many residents are low-income, homes are far apart, a number of customers rent, and many live in homes over 40 years old.

Ouachita Electric Cooperative’s members, in an area with a median household income of $25,256, are exactly those who could benefit from the lower electricity bills that come with reduced usage. But its member-customers are often not in a financial position to invest in energy efficiency. The cooperative, located in southwest Arkansas, has found a way beyond these barriers and has embraced an energy efficiency financing technique in their innovative HELP PAYS program (Home Energy Loan Program – Pay As You Save), which uses on-bill financing to fund retrofits. Continue reading

Won’t you pay my Bill?| Pathways to Getting Some Customers to Help Pay the Bills of Others

“Won’t you pay my bill?” is a question that the water utility asks of the customers who do not pay their water, wastewater, and even stormwater bills. But low-income customers are, essentially, asking the same question: will you—higher income customers—help pay the water bills of the poor?

National organizations like the American Water Works Association have policies related to non-payment. AWWA says “[f]ailure on the part of the customer to pay a water bill for services rendered necessitates that other customers bear the costs associated with the non‐payment of water service.”

But is it worth it to the water utility to use the rate revenues from one group of customers to subsidize the rates of another group of customers via an assistance program? More than that, is it even legal?  Continue reading

Solutions for Problems Facing Small Drinking Water Systems

Financial management is at the core of challenges small drinking water systems face. A comprehensive understanding of the financial health of a water system can help ensure that rates are set optimally, giving small systems the ability to finance projects while providing safe drinking water to their customers.

The Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at UNC organized a forum focused on rate setting and long-term fiscal planning to address these issues on July 26. The EFC, along with the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center, EPA Region 4, and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), planned this event to address the biggest issues facing water utilities among over 90 attendees representing multiple states in EPA Region 4. The forum  provided practical solutions to meet the concerns of the utilities present. Continue reading

Three Applied Lessons from the 2017 Appalachian Energy Summit

The Appalachian Energy Summit, held in mid-July in Boone, North Carolina, had the 2017 theme, “Perspectives: Policy & Practice.” This theme highlighted the interdisciplinary approach necessary for the successful deployment of efficient and sustainable energy.

Three topics from the summit—education, community, and leadership—were discussed in detail, all of which relate to energy in unique ways. The summit’s main ideas of the topics were presented in relation to the deployment of energy-based technology, though they can be applied to almost any industry. Continue reading

On-Bill Finance: A Crossroads for the Kitchen Table and Efficiency Issues

Many North Carolinians, myself included, only think about electricity when we flip the switch and the lights don’t come on.

Reducing electricity usage and conserving can be a distant thought at best. But really, anyone who gets a kick out of finding a “deal” or clipping coupons should be interested in energy efficiency, which can save residents and businesses significant amounts of money. The thrill of that savings can be muted, though, since that savings only materializes with time, after the measures have been implemented. And, for a household or business without much cash on hand, or an inability or unwillingness to take on additional debt, unlocking those savings can be challenging. Continue reading

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