Reducing the impact of energy costs

Washington state has received $1 million of federal funding to implement the Residential Energy Assistance Challenge (REACH) programme, and to develop strategies that focus on reducing the electricity costs of low income households. Some 300,000 families in the state are presently unable to make regular payments on their energy bills, and receive help from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) programme. The new strategy moves away from providing assistance to these families and looks for ways to encourage them to manage their energy use more efficiently.

The proposed strategy has an impact on the biggest energy problem encountered by low-income households – the fact that energy costs rise at a higher rate than income. State departments, community organisations and utilities are working together to find solutions. The REACH project goal of getting two investor-owned utility programmes funded by ratepayers that will move low-income households off LIHEAP assistance has already been exceeded – three utilities have already committed over $13 million.