Interviewees: Caroline Pakenham, Senior Manager of Water Programs, Elevate Energy and Anna McCreery, Research Manager, Elevate Energy
Elevate Energy is a nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world in which everyone has clean and affordable heat, power, and water in their homes and communities. The energy and water fields provide several parallels to public transportation:
- Bill discount and reduced rate programs are common within the energy field, and an emerging practice within the water field. These typically are available only to people who are behind in their payments or face other special hardship, and often require a complex application. An alternative practice would be to offer reduced rate programs to residents with low incomes proactively. For example, the City of Philadelphia’s Tiered Assistance Program provides an income-based bill rather than one based on volume of water consumed.
- Using simple applications to determine eligibility is recommended. The San Antonio Water System, notably, has streamlined the process for applying to its various affordability programs, including water and energy assistance.
- The energy field has determined eligibility for income-based programs with qualification for other income-based programs (like SNAP) — rather than requiring a separate verification. Some transit fare reduction programs, like ORCA LIFT, already do this, but most do not.
- A more advanced approach to determining eligibility involves qualifying individuals based on where they live, so that entire neighborhoods are eligible. Elevate Energy helped test out this approach in Chicago.
- Federal regulations affect some energy-related programs, like LIHEAP, but not for water programs. Additional federal policy would be helpful to push best practices to utilities.