Virginia General Assembly finalizes robust energy assistance program
The Virginia General Assembly voted Saturday to pass legislation defining the scope of a new energy assistance program for low-income Virginians.
HB 2330, which passed the House by a 51-47 vote, and a razor-thin 20-19 vote in the Senate, provides Dominion and Appalachian Power consumers with a limit on their electric bills as well as weatherization or energy efficiency programs and energy conservation education programs to further alleviate energy burden.
The new program is known as the Percentage of Income Payment Program, or PIPP, and will be administered by the Virginia Department of Social Services in consultation with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
PIPP originated as part of the Virginia Clean Economy Act with the goal of providing relief to low-income Virginians who are disproportionately overburdened by expensive utility bills.
In 2020, the State Corporation Commission issued an order that left open critical aspects to the program’s implementation and created room for the General Assembly to provide clarity around the size and scope of PIPP.
The newly passed legislation enacts an energy-efficient PIPP that begins to address some of the historic energy inequities.
Highlights of PIPP:
- Clarifies implementation of the program and beings enrollment no later than one year after the Department of Social Services establishes the program guidelines
- Provides eligible ratepayers with an average savings of more than $300 on their annual electricity bills, with the potential of having their outstanding electricity bills forgiven.
- The Department of Social Services will perform an analysis to determine if gaps remain in serving customers that are not already served by existing and available federal, state, local, or nonprofit programs to meet the energy reduction obligations
- Maximizes the ratepayer’s ability to participate in energy efficiency programs by establishing a working group to provide participants with needed health and safety updates.
“We commend bill patron Del. Kaye Kory and the General Assembly for creating a pathway for low-income ratepayers to receive much-needed utility bill assistance,” said Mary-Stuart Torbeck, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign campaign representative. The PIPP provides real benefits to low-income families across the commonwealth by reducing utility costs, and by reducing energy waste which will add additional savings to their bills over time. This legislation passes at a time when low-income Virginians are disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis from COVID19 and are spending more time at home further increasing their already high energy bills. PIPP has the ability to make a positive material impact on Virginians lives.”