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CHARLESTON — Home heating bills are projected to rise this winter, but West Virginians can at least look forward to greater support for an assistance program designed to cut energy costs.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission has approved a 50% increase in electric utility funding for a low-income weatherization program.

The commission on Friday approved a jump from $900,000 to $1.35 million in low-income weatherization funding for 2022 and 2023. Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power agreed with energy efficiency advocate groups to settle a case in which the companies sought agency approval of the companies’ energy efficiency and demand response programs.

Demand response programs allow customers to take advantage of time-based rates and other incentives by reducing electricity use during periods of higher power prices.

The advocate groups that agreed to the settlement were the commission’s Consumer Advocate Division, an independent arm of the Public Service Commission that represents the interests of utility customers; Energy Efficiency West Virginia; and the West Virginia Citizen Action Group. The commission approved the settlement and closed the case Friday, after the parties reached the agreement in August.

“Energy Efficient West Virginia and WV Citizen Action Group are pleased that the Public Service Commission agreed with us that low-income energy efficiency programs should be bolstered,” Energy Efficiency West Virginia policy director Emmett Pepper said in a statement.

Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye noted in an email that the increase in low-income weatherization program spending will provide an opportunity for additional customers to participate and reduce their energy consumption.

Appalachian Power provides funding to help support state and federal income-based weatherization programs.

Local community-action agency weatherization offices across West Virginia accept applications for weatherization assistance and determine whether a dwelling and its residents are eligible.

Those interested in the program should contact their local community action agency.

Customers have access to more than $3 million in energy efficiency incentives annually, including the low-income weatherization program, a home performance program that includes a home energy assessment and a rebate incentive for qualifying energy improvement and a low-income multifamily program that reduces energy consumption by educating residential customers about energy efficiency.

The companies’ new rates to cover energy efficiency and demand response programs are projected to recover $10.48 million annually for 2022 and 2023.

The boost in future low-income weatherization funding came after the U.S. Energy Information Administration in October projected that American households would spend 54% more for propane, 43% more for heating oil, 30% more for natural gas and 6% more for electric heating this winter, compared to last winter.

The agency cited an expected slightly colder winter and growth in energy demand outpacing growth in supply as reasons for the anticipated cost increases.

Mike Tony covers energy and the environment for HD Media. He can be reached at 304-348-1236 or Follow @Mike__Tony on Twitter.

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