Helping Customers Manage High Bills

With the costs of fuel skyrocketing, a sluggish economy, and predictions of another tough winter season approaching, many utilities have been forced to raise electricity rates and are struggling with how to communicate to customers the pressures they are facing. And indications are that high electricity prices are a reality that is not going to change anytime soon. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently projected that U.S. residential electricity prices are expected to rise by 5% this year and 10% in 2009, compared to an increase of 2.2% in 2007. Statistics show that energy prices have risen steadily for almost 7 years and judging by the number of utilities facing rate increases this year, that trend shows no sign of changing. This will almost certainly mean utilities will face increasing customer complaints, a rise in late and unpaid electricity bills, and more demand for bill payment assistance programs. 

There are a number of things public power utilities can do to lessen the blow and communicate their commitment to helping customers discover ways to lower their electricity bills and become more energy efficient. 

APPA has developed a host of tools to assist utilities in helping their customers help themselves to a more energy efficient future.

Energy Efficiency Web Resources for Your Use
The following are some helpful Web sites for educating customers about public power and electric power issues. Utilities can link them to their Web site, include them in publications, and use their information in communications.

Top Tips for Saving Energy in Your Home
Here’s a checklist of energy-saving measures for your home that cost little or nothing, but can return real savings on your energy bills.

Top Tips for Saving Energy in Small Business 
Here’s a checklist of energy-saving measures for your business that cost little or nothing, but can return real savings on your energy bills.

Publications and Resources for Your Customers
These resources are intended to help utilities educate customers on energy efficiency, provide tips they can use to reduce their electric bills and provide additional resources to encourage efficiency.

Public Power Low-Income Programs
Public power low-income energy assistance programs differ based on community resources and needs. There are also many different ways to fund and deliver energy assistance services. Here are a few examples.

Low-Income Energy Assistance Web Resources

The following are some Low-Income Assistance Web sites for educating consumers about the resources available to low-income customers. These can be linked to your Web site and included in utility publications and communications.

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program for Children and Families, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services
The Division of Energy Assistance in the Office of Community Services of the Administration for Children and Families administers LIHEAP and also the LIHEAP Clearinghouse. LIHEAP provides federal funds and technical assistance to help eligible low income households meet their home heating and/or cooling needs.
Federal Government Agencies, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Office of Community Services
Division of Energy Assistance
370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W.
Washington, DC 20447
(202) 401-9351
Fax: (202) 401-5661

The Campaign for Home Energy Assistance
This Web resource is sponsored by the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance. Included here is general information about the LIHEAP program and who it serves, media information, news, and ideas for what you can do to help save LIHEAP.

Support LIHEAP
"Support LIHEAP" provides advocacy materials on the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program in order to get the word out to the U.S. Congress that it should fully fund the program in fiscal year 2006. This Web site has facts about LIHEAP and the households it serves, as well as quotes from public officials and organizations about the importance of LIHEAP.

National Center for Appropriate Technology LIHEAP Clearinghouse
The Clearinghouse collects, develops, organizes and disseminates information on low-income energy issues to: state, tribal, and territorial LIHEAP grantees; community action agencies and local government offices (subgrantees); low-income energy service organizations; fuel funds; utilities and utility regulatory commissions.

National Fuel Funds Network
The National Fuel Funds Network (NFFN) promotes all types of energy assistance programs--including fuel funds--and advocates for fair home energy policies. NFFN members such as community-based organizations, local government agencies, and utility partners raise and distribute money for bill-payment assistance in neighborhoods across the country.

Weatherization Assistance Program of the U.S. Department of Energy
The Weatherization Assistance Program enables low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Through this program, weatherization service providers install energy efficiency measures in the homes of qualifying homeowners free of charge.

Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance CenterThis site provides weatherization practitioners and other energy conservation professionals with information related to the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), its on-going operations, and its partnerships with stakeholders.