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PUD commission low income assistance law

CETA, or the Clean Energy Transformation Act, has become a hot topic of conversation, General Manager Dan Kay told the Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

“It has two components,” Kay said. “It has a power supply side that the governor signed into law where we are transitioning into 100 percent renewable or non-carbon emitting energy by 2045. The second component, which will probably impact us the most, is the low income assistance component.”

Low income assistance, or energy assistance, according to Kay, can be provided by direct funding or by expanding conservation measures. This component of CETA is to be addressed by a midterm deadline of 2030 and a long term deadline of 2050, he said.

The state is still trying to define some of the terms, Kay said. One is energy burden, which is the percentage of household income that can go towards an energy bill.

Customers who qualify as low income, another term that so far remains undefined, would pay no more than six percent of their household income to their energy bill, Kay said.

There were concerns about how CETA might impact Wahkiakum PUD. How will low income be determined? How many local customers would qualify? How would this affect the other customers?

“That 6 percent is going to be a pretty big deal,” Kay said. “Smaller utilities … This is going to be a pretty big deal, and trying to work together to understand what those impacts are going to be.”

“Some utilities are saying that it will be single digits worth of their customers that are going to be affected, some say it’s going to be in the high double digits,” Kay said later.

Auditor Erin Wilson gave an overview of what Wahkiakum PUD is already doing to assist low income customers, which included the Residential Energy Assistance Program; energy assistance and other forms of assistance provided through the Lower Columbia Community Action Program; a Wahkiakum County Community Outreach Coordinator who helps people qualify for REAP and the PUD’s low income/senior/disabled program.

She also discussed some possible strategies for meeting the coming requirements, from tracking customer demographics, to expanding marketing and funding of assistance programs and possibly expanding the funding for a conservation program to help low income households.

The conversation continued around a cost of service study, how to determine the impact of energy efficiency and conservation programs, possible lobbying efforts, and more, but nothing was settled.

“As all of us utilities are working through this to see what we need to do to implement the requirements of this, and the cost to implement, it needs to be shared with the legislature. They need to see the true cost,” Wilson said.

They plan to continue the discussion.

In other news, Kay reported that they’ve had one recent outage, but it was human caused. He said with the nice weather there had been more requests for new service hookups, and talked about additional testing requirements for PFAS (Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) in the water system and increased testing of lead and copper sewer lines.


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