What could make the difference between a utility making it through an event like Hurricane Florence with relatively few impacts, and one that has major, lasting problems?
Imagine two utilities, just over the county line from one another, with the same assets that are exactly the same age, located at the same elevations. Will their ability to provide service after a storm be exactly the same? What type of things might they do before the storm hits to improve the outcome? Continue reading
83 percent of Puerto Ricans remain without power three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island. The goal is for 25 percent of customers to regain power by the end of October, but it could be months before the territory’s grid is fully operational again. Meanwhile, 36 percent of the island still does not have water service. Since energy is required to treat and deliver water, presumably the lack of power is standing in the way of getting some of those water systems back online. (Water, of course, is also needed to generate energy, but that’s a topic for another time.) Continue reading
We’re all in agreement that how you pay for it matters, but is it possible that when you pay for it matters too? Some utilities are experimenting with prepayment plans, in which customers pay in advance for a set amount of service. Continue reading
Earlier this week, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) released a technical brief, “Energy Efficiency Program Financing: Where it comes from, where it goes, and how it gets there.” Financing specifically refers to capital that is used to cover project upfront costs but then paid back over time (unlike rebates or other incentives). This characteristic of financing programs also makes them ideal tools to amplify the impact of limited amounts of public funding for energy efficiency, by recycling the funds as they are repaid for further projects, and by using the public funds to attract greater amounts of private capital.
The research highlights several intriguing (but expected) takeaways and a few surprises, but bypasses one key insight.
How do unpaid bills affect utilities’ finances? Is customer debt similar to debt incurred investing in infrastructure, such as building new facilities? These are inquiries the EFC received a few weeks ago, related to recent news that Western Pennsylvania gas and electric utilities have hundreds of millions in outstanding, unpaid bills.