Report: Make Idaho's weatherization program more uniform
TWIN FALLS, Nov 23, 2012 (Menafn - The Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Despite serving a vital role in Idaho, weatherization programs should implement uniform cost-effective measures before increasing funding, a recent report recommended.
This recommendation comes from a staff report by Idaho's Public Utilities Commission. The report focused on weatherization programs provided by Idaho's largest electric utility companies, Idaho Power Co., Rocky Mountain Power and Avista Utilities.
The utilities provide funding from ratepayer dollars to assist low-income customers with weatherizing their homes.
The report expressed concern about the utilities' weatherization programs being cost-effective for the ratepayer and suggested not increasing funding to the programs until the issue could be further evaluated.
Idaho Power, which provides about 1.2 million in assistance each year, is the only company to claim its program has cost savings. But IPUC staff doubted the validity of the company's evaluation method.
They claim Idaho Power is using older software model, calling the total savings are likely an "overstated energy savings estimate."
Idaho Power representatives were not available for comment when contacted by the Times-News on Tuesday and Wednesday. Yet, a spokeswoman said Idaho Power would submit comments responding to the report Wednesday. The report's comment period ends today.
"We stand by the accuracy of our cost-effectiveness test," said Stephanie McCurdy with Idaho Power.
Recommendations from the report included urging Idaho Power to continue carrying over unspent weatherization funding from base rates into the following year and continuing funding at current levels until better evaluation methods are implemented.
South Central Community Action Partnership works with Idaho Power to find and fund low-income households needing weatherization assistance, said Ken Robinette, the nonprofit's executive director.
Over the years, federal and private funding for weatherization programs have experienced drastic cuts, but the need remains high, he said.
"I understand the need to make sure the program is cost-effective. They are dealing with rate-payer money," he said. "However, the social benefits that weatherization programs add are difficult to measure but are critical for the individual and the community."
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