Low-Income Bill Payment Assistance Program Research and Evaluation
Ameren’s Keeping Current Program provides monthly bill credits and arrearage reduction for customers who continue to make monthly bill payments. Their Keeping Cooling Program provides bill credits in the summer months to offset the costs of air conditioning usage. APPIRSE has conducted four process and impact evaluations of the program. These evaluations assessed program design, implementation, participation, retention, and impacts, and made recommendations for program improvements.
In 2020, APPRISE conducted a program design study to assess alternative bill payment designs and make recommendations for refinement or redesign of Ameren’s program. This study assessed program goals, explored options for program parameters, analyzed the outcomes of various program designs, reviewed best practices, and provided recommendations for changes to Ameren’s program.
Ameren’s Keeping Current Program provides electric bill payment assistance and arrearage forgiveness to low-income customers. APPRISE conducted four evaluations of the Keeping Current Program that included surveys, in-depth interviews, analyses of program benefits delivered, and analysis of the program’s impact on affordability, bill payment, and collections actions.
APPRISE is conducting an evaluation of Baltimore Gas and Electric’s (BGE) Pre-Payment Pilot Program. This program will offer a pre-payment option to a random sample of BGE customers. The evaluation will assess the characteristics of customers who opt into the program, motivation for enrolling, satisfaction with the program, and the impact of the program on energy usage, bill payment, arrearages, collections costs, and other costs. The research will include stakeholder engagement; a participant survey; and analysis of program, energy usage, billing, payment, arrearage, and collections data.
Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) designed and implemented pilot programs to determine the effect of energy bill discounts and payment counseling on the payment timeliness of limited-income customers. The Graduated Rate Discount (GRAD) Program provided a range of usage-based discounts. Some of the customers also received a home energy audit or payment counseling phone calls. The Customer Assistance Maintenance Program (CAMP) pilot tested changes to BGE’s CAMP including increased bill credits, payment counseling, or both. APPRISE’s process and impact evaluation assessed the effectiveness of these pilots in increasing customers’ on-time bill payment and energy conservation behavior.
National Fuel Gas provides bill payment assistance, energy efficiency services, emergency bill payment assistance, and holistic case management services to assist low-income customers. APPRISE conducted a comprehensive evaluation of these programs. The research included analysis of program data, interviews with program managers and staff, interviews with service delivery agencies and contractors, in-depth interviews with program participants, and analysis of the impacts of bill payment assistance on energy affordability, bill payment, arrearages, service terminations, and collections costs.
APPRISE is conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the energy assistance programs managed by the Oregon Housing and Community Service Department. Research objectives include assessing the impact, marketing, outreach, and accessibility of current LIHEAP and ratepayer-funded energy assistance programs; and evaluating the effectiveness of current and alternative program delivery models. As part of this evaluation, APPRISE is conducting organizational research, a market assessment study, a participant survey, in-depth interviews, and a quantitative impact assessment. In addition, APPRISE is implementing a community-based participatory research approach to engage local and state community organizations as research partners. Community research partners will provide input and assist in outreach and data collection efforts with members of underserved populations.
PECO implemented Universal Service Programs to help low-income customers maintain energy services and protect customers’ health and safety. The programs include CAP which provides reduced payments and arrearage forgiveness, LIURP which provides energy efficiency and energy education services, CARES which provides outreach and referral services, and MEAP which provides emergency financial assistance for overdue energy bills. The 2019 evaluation conducted by APPRISE included a review of program procedures and implementation; customer needs assessment; interviews with program managers and implementation partners; customer surveys; and an analysis of the impact of the program on energy affordability, bill payment, collections, and energy usage.
APPRISE is conducting an evaluation of Pepco’s Arrearage Management Pilot Program. This program will provide arrearage forgiveness to low-income residential customers with arrearages of $300 or more. The evaluation research will assess program implementation, the characteristics of customers who enroll in the program, and the impact of the program on arrearages, bill payment, and collections actions and collections costs. The research will include stakeholder interviews; a participant survey; and analysis of program, billing, payment, arrearage, and collections data.
PGW’s Customer Responsibility Program provides low-income PGW customers with a reduced bill to increase energy affordability. Their other Universal Service Programs provide energy efficiency services, case management services, and emergency bill payment assistance. The 2019 evaluation assessed the characteristics of program participants, payment compliance by program participants, and arrearage forgiveness received by program participants. The research estimated the impact of the program on affordability, payments, and collections actions and costs. Evaluation activities included interviews with program managers and staff, needs assessment, in-depth interviews with participating customers, and analysis of customer billing, payment, and collections data.
APPRISE conducted Process and Impact Evaluations of PPL Electric Utilities’ (PPL) Universal Services Programs in 2008, 2014 and 2020. The Universal Service Programs provide bill payment assistance and energy efficiency services to PPL’s low-income customers. The 2020 evaluation included a needs assessment, interviews with program managers and staff, interviews with service delivery agencies, surveys with participating customers, and analysis of the impact of the programs on energy affordability and bill payment practices.