10.22.21 - Evergy PAYS® & NC Bill
This week: Evergy PAYS® launches with a bang, and legislation in North Carolina that moves the green needle in the right direction but inclusive utility investment not so much.
Evergy, MO Marketing Muscle PAYS Off!
On September 27, 2021, Evergy, Missouri launched its Evergy PAYS® pilot with a sophisticated year-long marketing plan designed to drive enrollment. (You can check out the video here).
So far, it is working like a charm. As of October 19, the program had over 365 customers submitting an interest form--more than 16 per day. They are blowing through their goal of 170 customers sign ups per month!
PAYS champions have long argued that with sufficient marketing investment PAYS programs would be a runaway success. In the past, when PAYS programs were introduced and well advertised, such as in Hawaii and New Hampshire, demand outstripped supply, consuming the utility’s investment budget months or even years early.
Evergy filed for a $10.1 Million pilot with a goal of just under 1,000 completed projects. For Evergy to fully demonstrate the potential to rapidly scale PAYS it may need to petition the Commission for additional budget. Given the Commission’s support for PAYS to date, such approval does not seem improbable.
North Carolina House Bill 951 Energy Solutions for North Carolina Signed Into Law
On October 13, 2021 North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed a policy rich energy bill House Bill 951 Energy Solutions for North Carolina. The bill is just 10 pages long and has provisions that have been both cheered and condemned including:
A directive to reduce carbon emissions by 70% of 2005 levels by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2050,
$1 billion payment to Duke to securitize and retire its coal assets to be paid for half by taxpayers and half by ratepayers,
A shift to Performance Based Regulation and multi-year program plans for IOUs (Duke), and,
A requirement that “[T]he Utility Commission shall establish an on-utility-bill repayment program related to energy efficiency investments.”
From an Inclusive Utility Investment perspective the benefits are modest at best. The Commission could meet this requirement with either on-bill loans, on-bill repayment, or possibly inclusive utility investment, provided the commission concludes “repayment” encompasses more than a utility debt collection program.
Supporters of PAYS in North Carolina, have long argued that the commission already had the authority to direct the utilities to implement inclusive utility investment programs, making this provision entirely unnecessary.
This development does, however, add significance to a settlement with Duke negotiated more than six months ago, in which Duke committed to develop within 18-months a “tariffed on-bill program which shall include a Pay-As-You-Save® or other mutually agreeable alternative program design.”
When Duke files for its approval, advocates can now petition the Commission to recognize the Duke pilot program as meeting the statutory requirement.
One unfortunate feature of the bill negotiations was that this on-bill repayment program was inserted as a substitute for provisions that would have increased funding and programs for low-income weatherization and related assistance, which has led environmental justice advocates to criticize the provision.