SB 228-FN-A – FINAL VERSION
SENATE BILL 228-FN-A
SPONSORS: Sen. Clegg, Dist 14; Sen. Gatsas, Dist 16; Sen. Green, Dist 6; Sen. Larsen, Dist 15; Sen. Burling, Dist 5; Rep. O’Neil, Rock 15; Rep. W. D. Scamman, Rock 1; Rep. Newton, Straf 1; Rep. Craig, Hills 9; Rep. DeJoie, Merr 11
I. Authorizes transfers of system benefits charge funds from energy efficiency programs to low-income assistance programs.
II. Requires refunds to ratepayers of system benefits charge funds under certain circumstances.
III. Appropriates $10,000,000 to the office of energy and planning for the fuel assistance program.
IV. Establishes a low-income electric assistance program review committee and requires the public utilities commission to report to the committee.
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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.
Matter removed from current law appears [
in brackets and struckthrough.]
Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.
STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Five
AN ACT making an appropriation for emergency home heating assistance.
Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:
298:1 Findings. The general court finds that the growing demand for energy, the effects of natural disasters, and the tightening of energy supplies have led to significantly higher and more volatile electricity and home heating prices, requiring temporary emergency responses. The intent of the system benefits charge (SBC) provision of this legislation is to provide temporary emergency assistance to low-income electric customers for 6 months in 2006 who meet eligibility standards but would not have been able to be funded by the existing low-income electric assistance program (EAP) administered by the public utilities commission. This temporary emergency assistance will be available to low-income customers who are certified to meet the same eligibility requirements used for the EAP. Temporary emergency assistance will be funded using existing SBC revenues from, respectively, low-income and energy efficiency programs as necessary without creating the need for an increase in electric rates. The legislation also provides electric utilities the option of funding temporary emergency assistance while maintaining the full level of funding of energy efficiency programs. If a utility chooses to fund the EAP, temporary emergency low-income assistance, and energy efficiency programs in excess of the revenues it collects under the SBC, it can recover those additional amounts in equal installments over the calendar years 2007, 2008, and 2009.
298:2 System Benefits Charge. Notwithstanding any provision of law or rule or any order to the contrary:
I. From January 1, 2006 until June 30, 2006, all electric utilities shall continue to collect a system benefits charge in the aggregate no higher than 3 mills per kilowatt hour, consisting of 1.2 mills per kilowatt hour for low-income customer programs and 1.8 mills per kilowatt hour for energy efficiency programs. If the public utilities commission finds a significant amount of unencumbered dollars have accumulated in either program during the period from January 1, 2006 until June 30, 2006, and are not needed for program purposes, the commission shall cause the refund of such unencumbered dollars to ratepayers in a timely manner, except as provided in paragraph II.
II. From January 1, 2006 until June 30, 2006, each electric utility and rural electric cooperative subject to the provisions of RSA 374-F shall reallocate funds as a temporary emergency measure, in the order described herein, to provide monthly assistance to low-income customers residing within its service area who are certified to meet the eligibility requirements of the low-income electric assistance program administered by the public utilities commission but who are not enrolled in and receiving assistance from that program. Each utility shall, to the extent funds are available and required, first allocate for expenditure as a temporary emergency measure funds from the low-income portion of its system benefits charge that under the low-income electric assistance program would have been transferred to the state treasurer and then, to the extent funds are further required, allocate from the energy efficiency program funds sufficient to provide comparable monthly assistance to low-income customers within its service area eligible for low-income assistance. The balance of the energy efficiency program portion of the system benefits charge then remaining shall continue to be allocated to energy efficiency programs for the customers residing and doing business in the utility’s service area. Throughout the period of January 1, 2006 to June 30, 2006, each utility may continue to provide energy efficiency programs at the levels supported by funding at the 1.8 mills per kilowatt hour level. To the extent that funds are required to provide temporary assistance to low-income customers and a utility elects to continue funding the energy efficiency programs at the 1.8 mills per kilowatt hour level, the utility may correspondingly reduce its energy efficiency expenditures in equal installments over a period of 3 years by the equivalent total amount utilized to fund the temporary emergency measures described herein. To the extent that it becomes necessary for implementation, continued operation, or orderly termination of this temporary emergency measure, the public utilities commission is authorized to interpret and enforce this paragraph without the requirement of a public hearing. A total of 30,000 customers may be served under the low-income electric assistance program, as temporarily modified by this act, without further legislative approval. No utility may transfer more than $3,000,000 in energy efficiency program funds pursuant to this section.
298:3 Low-Income Electric Assistance Program Reports. The public utilities commission shall, on the twentieth day of each month from December 2005 to June 2006, file a report with the committee established by section 4 of this act detailing for each utility or rural electric cooperative participating in the low-income electric assistance program for the previous month: expenditures of system benefits charge funds for both energy efficiency and low-income programs, system benefits charge revenue and unexpended funds available, and the number of low-income customers on a waiting list or otherwise eligible for but not receiving low-income electric assistance program benefits because of insufficient funding in the utility’s or cooperative’s service territory.
298:4 Low-Income Electric Assistance Program Review Committee.
I. There is established a low-income electric assistance program review committee. The committee shall review the monthly reports submitted by the public utilities commission pursuant to section 3 of this act. The committee may recommend proposed legislation related to the purposes of this act and shall report its recommendations to the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate.
II. The members of the committee shall be as follows:
(a) Four members of the senate, appointed by the president of the senate.
(b) Four members of the house of representatives, appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.
III. The members of the committee shall elect a chairperson from among the members. The committee shall meet monthly to review reports submitted to the committee, and at such other times as the chairperson or a majority of the members deem necessary. Members of the committee shall receive mileage at the legislative rate when attending to the duties of the committee.
298:5 Appropriation; Office of Energy and Planning; Fuel Assistance Program.
I. The sum of $10,000,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006 is hereby appropriated to the office of energy and planning for the state’s fuel assistance program. This appropriation is in addition to any other funds appropriated to the office of energy and planning. The governor is authorized to draw a warrant for said sum out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.
II. It is the intention of the general court to have the general funds appropriated by this section used only after all available federal funds have been accepted and obligated.
298:6 Administrative Costs.
I. No funds made available by this act shall be used by the office of energy and planning to pay administrative costs.
II. No funds made available in section 2 of this act shall be used by any community action agency to pay administrative costs except those administrative costs associated with providing electric assistance to more than 30,000 households.
298:7 Fuel Assistance Report. The office of energy and planning shall submit by July 30, 2006 a report on the use of all federal and state moneys used for fuel assistance in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006 to the speaker of the house of representatives, the senate president, the governor, and the fiscal committee of the general court.
298:8 Effective Date. This act shall take effect upon its passage.
Approved: November 16, 2005
Effective: November 16, 2005
SB 228-FN-A - FISCAL NOTE
AN ACT making an appropriation for emergency home heating assistance.
The Public Utilities Commission has determined this bill will have no impact on state, county or local revenue and expenditures. The Office of Energy and Planning has determined this bill will increase state general fund expenditures by $10,000,000 and reduce local expenditures by an indeterminable amount in FY 2006. There will be no fiscal impact on county and local revenues and county expenditures.
This bill appropriates $10,000,000 from the general fund in FY 2006 to the Office of Energy and Planning.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) stated that currently pursuant to RSA 374-F customers pay a system benefit charge 3 mills ($0.003) per kilowatt hour, of which currently 1.2 mills per kilowatt hour is allocated for low-income customer programs (EAP) and 1.8 mills per kilowatt hour is allocated for energy efficiency programs. The average residential customer pays $1.50 per month in system benefit charges.
The EAP portion collects approximately $13.5 million annually and, based on the number of assumptions about income levels and rate levels, was planned to serve approximately 17,500 customers in 2006. The energy efficiency program portion collects approximately $20.0 million annually. Funds collected are not part of the general fund and they are not part of the PUC budget.
This bill intends to augment the existing EAP by providing temporary assistance to additional low income electric customers as an emergency measure, from January 1, 2006 to June 30, 2006. This would be accomplished by transferring funds from the energy efficiency programs to the EAP. This temporary emergency measure would provide monthly benefits in the range of approximately $55 to $60 to an expected population of over 10,000 additional households (many of which are on the current EAP waiting list). This bill would provide approximately $3.5 million in additional low income assistance.
The PUC further stated that inasmuch as the bill is open-ended, as many as 15,000 or more additional households could be certified as eligible, which would amount to approximately $5.25
million in additional assistance. Under this bill there will be no net increase in total funds collected and no increase in rates because the additional funds will be taken from the existing energy efficiency portion of the System Benefits Charge. The bill temporarily changes the current EAP in a significant way aligning revenues raised and benefits distributed on a utility-by-utility basis, instead of the statewide approach currently in use. This change will require a number of detailed bookkeeping and administrative changes in order to effectively coordinate the EAP and the temporary emergency measure.
The PUC stated this bill will have no fiscal impact on state, county or local revenue and expenditures, however the possibility exists, that some number of state, county or local projects for public buildings or schools that qualify for funding under the energy efficiency programs may be deferred to later in 2006 or even into 2007. The results will be determined ultimately by, first, how many households are served by the temporary measure and, second, which specific energy efficiency programs each utility determines to take funds from, inasmuch as the bill does not provide guidance to utilities in that respect.
The Office of Energy and Planning (OEP) stated this bill appropriates $10,000,000 in FY 2006 to the OEP with the intent that the appropriation will be used only after all available federal funds have been accepted and obligated and that at this time, federal appropriations have not been finalized. The OEP stated that no funds made available by this bill may be used for OEP administrative costs and that there will be no fiscal impact on the OEP. The OEP stated that if state funding is intended to be in addition to the currently available federal funds, there will likely be a reduction in demand for local welfare assistance, though this amount cannot be determined.