Need Help Paying Your Electric Bill? Forget It: WV Needs Least Cost Planning More than Ever

The Charleston Daily Mail’s ace reporter Ry Rivard has a very informative story in today’s paper about big increases in electric rates for poor West Virginians.  The Obama Administration and WV’s Republican Congress members McKinley and Capito are all supporting major cuts in the federal program that provides most of the money for WV’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, also called LIHEAP.  In the past, LIHEAP has made payments of $500 to low income West Virginians to help pay their winter heating bills.

The federal money for this winter’s program is being held up by failure of the Republican-controlled House to agree on budget cuts.  The argument is not between no cuts versus cuts, it is between Obama Administration cuts or deeper Republican cuts.  Either way, there will be significant cuts to the WV LIHEAP program.

Instead of acting on real programs to reduce electric rates in WV, such as increasing power company efficiency requirements, eliminating volume discounts for electricity use and reducing WV’s dependence on expensive coal, the WV PSC, the PSC’s Consumer Advocate Division and WV political leaders claim that at least LIHEAP will take care of the poorest customers of the WV AEP and FE subsidiaries.

Apparently, that fantasy is over.

When will the WV Legislature take real action to reduce the coal induced electric rate increases that are due to continue for years?  Here’s a good place to start: Least Cost Planning, also known as integrated resource planning that is now required in many states.  Here is an example from the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Least cost planning requires power companies to justify any new investment in power plants or power lines against all other options, especially increasing the efficiency of the overall power system.  The PSC then requires the power company to pursue only the least cost solution to the issue at hand.  Least cost planning is in place in about half the states in the US.  Why not in WV?

Cross posted on Coalition for Reliable Power

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