December 08, 2015

New Report Finds Weatherization Programs Declined 26 Percent Since Energy Efficiency Freeze Became Law in 2014

Revival of robust weatherization programs could create 2,400 jobs, generate $1.77 billion in energy savings over 13 years

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A new study released today by Policy Matters Ohio and NextGen Climate America, in partnership with Green for All and Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, found that Ohio’s 2014 freeze on energy efficiency standards has reduced weatherization efforts by 26 percent – costing all Ohio families more on their electricity bills, causing more reliance on payment-assistance plans and creating fewer job opportunities in Ohio’s energy economy.

“Ohio’s stalled progress towards transitioning to a clean-energy economy is hurting the state in many ways,” said David Weiskopf, attorney at NextGen Climate America. “Cuts to weatherization and energy-efficiency programs, combined with the state’s freeze on its renewable standards portfolio, is costing Ohioans jobs and economic opportunities.”

Between 2008 and 2014, the energy efficiency requirements of Ohio’s clean energy laws led to a nearly seven-fold increase in low-income home weatherization investments by Ohio’s investor-owned electric utilities.In 2009, electric utilities were required to achieve 0.3 percent energy savings in their territory for that year; 1.0 percent annually starting in 2014; and then 2 percent per year starting in 2019. Butin 2014, Governor John Kasich signed into law a bill freezing the standard for two years while a legislative committee assessed whether to eliminate it altogether, and this September the committee recommended extending the freeze indefinitely.

Among a host of troubling provisions, the freeze suspended Ohio’s efficiency requirements for electric utilities. Once frozen, electric utility investments in low-income home weatherization declined by 26 percent.

“One of the many things the committee failed to consider when making this recommendation was that doing so would negatively impact cost-effective electric utility investments in low-income home weatherization by eliminating a major incentive to maintain a strong commitment to these programs,” said Amanda Woodrum, researcher at Policy Matters Ohio.

The report found that if Ohio were to adopt a program to weatherize 30,000 homes of customers enrolled in a payment-assistance program each year for 13 years, it would create nearly 2,400 jobs and  produce roughly $1.77 billion in energy savings for Ohio families. It would also  cut in half annual costs to customers enrolled in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP)– which helps low-income Ohioans pay their utility bills – and it would help electric utility companies meet their carbon-reduction requirements for the federal clean air regulations.

In 2013, Ohioans spent nearly $10 billion to heat and power their homes, with the average Ohio household spending $2,171. Roughly one in five Ohio households is considered cost burdened by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards, paying more than 30 percent of their annual income on housing and utilities.

Ohio’s Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) — designed to lower utility bills through air sealing, insulation, furnace and appliance replacement and repair, and other related measures — helps end this cycle of energy poverty for low-income households. Roughly 400,000 Ohio households seek help paying their utility bills each year through PIPP. Robust weatherization programs can help to reduce this number.

“By permanently lowering utility bills, Ohio’s weatherization program reduces financial stress on low-income families and enables them to allocate more of their income towards other necessities, such as food, medication, and transportation,” said Dave Rinebolt, executive director of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, which works with weatherization programs in Ohio’s 88 counties. “Investment in weatherization also provides new jobs for Ohioans, both through the weatherization work itself, and from jobs created manufacturing more efficient products and other weatherization supplies.”

Reinstating Ohio’s energy efficiency standards for electric utilities will revive utility investments in low-income weatherization. It will also help Ohio meet its carbon reduction requirements under U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.