Ethnie Groves, Office of the Governor, 608-261-2156
Provides $16 Million for Bill Payment Assistance for Low-Income Families
MILWAUKEE – Governor Jim Doyle today announced his Energy Help initiative, a comprehensive plan to help Wisconsin residents and businesses meet the skyrocketing cost of energy.
“When heating costs are expected to rise by up to 50 percent this winter, it affects everyone’s budget,” Governor Doyle said. “That is why it is important to not only help our most vulnerable citizens pay their heating bills, but to make sure Wisconsin is taking the necessary steps to increase energy conservation and efficiency in our homes and businesses.”
Governor Doyle’s Energy Help initiative calls for:
More than doubling the state’s commitment to low-income heating assistance – providing an additional $16 million for the state’s Bill Payment Assistance program starting October 1, 2005. The funding represents the growth of the Public Benefits Fund, which happens annually by statue. The growth in the past has gone to the Weatherization program, which is now the largest in the nation.
Calling on the federal government to double federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The federal government has consistently neglected the program – causing its energy buying power to decline from 49 percent of the average winter heating bill to 27 percent. Nationwide, heating bills are expected to go up an average of $611 dollars this winter – more than the total aid most low-income people receive.
Joining with seven other Midwest states in an agreement to reduce Wisconsin’s natural gas consumption by one percent a year for five years. Not only will this lower bills for consumers, but a recent study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy indicates a five percent reduction by eight states could reduce the cost of natural gas by as much as 13 percent nationally. Other states included in the agreement are: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Ohio.
Calling on private utilities to join the state in helping families pay their heating bills. We Energies today pledged $11 million dollars – $6 million for weatherization efforts, and $5 million for energy assistance for families up to 200 percent of the poverty level. Alliant Energy has also pledged to put $1.3 million into increasing their energy efficiency efforts. Governor Doyle commended We Energies and Alliant Energy for their leadership on this issue.
Asking the Public Service Commission and the Department of Administration to identify and report back in 30 days any natural gas efficiency projects that are stalled because of regulatory red tape or other hurdles. The state will then try to work with the companies to expedite permits, provide access to appropriate government assistance, and other help to move the projects forward. Collectively, these projects will conserve enough natural gas to heat thousands of homes, save businesses millions of dollars, and keep good jobs in Wisconsin.
Providing better information to residents about where to turn for help and how they can be more energy efficient at home. A new website, Energyhelp.wi.gov, and a single toll free number, (800) 522-3014, will provide one-stop-shops of information and assistance.
Encouraging more homeowners to have an energy audit to identify ways to make their homes more efficient, and reduce their utility bills and energy demand. The Focus on Energy program will increase the rebate they offer on energy audits to $100, and will continue to offer a $150 rebate on energy efficient furnaces. Last year, homeowners who had an audit and implemented the most cost-effective measures saved an average of $450 on their utility bill in the first year.
Governor Doyle also called on the Legislature to pass this fall the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Energy Efficiency and Renewables, to help Wisconsin work toward energy independence and bring stability to energy prices. The recommendations call for 10 percent of Wisconsin’s energy from renewable sources; building code changes to reduce future demand; securing energy efficiency funds; and coordinated reform efforts between Public Service Commission and Department of Administration to restore confidence in energy efficiency programs.