This winter’s cold weather and ice storms are causing higher electric bills for Emerald People’s Utility District customers. “We have seen customer bills increase by 64 percent or more,” said board president Kevin Parrish. “That can be quite a shock to household budgets.”

“Weather conditions in neighboring states made it possible to purchase power at a very low cost this winter, and Emerald PUD wants to pass on those savings to our customers,” Parrish said. “For this reason, the board voted yesterday to set aside $150,000 to help families struggling now with high winter bills.”

“A household that keeps its thermostat set at 68 degrees may see their bill go up dramatically after just a few days of freezing weather,” he said. “The most common reason for this increase is simple. Heating systems work harder when it’s cold outside.”

“Funds will be allocated two ways,” said Emerald PUD general manager Scott Coe.

  • $50,000 will be placed in Emerald PUD’s Helping Hands payment assistance program. Initial funding primarily comes from contributions from other Emerald PUD customer-owners. “With this additional funding, we expect to provide more local families with greater relief,” Coe said. Eligible households can normally receive up to $200 in Helping Hands assistance, but this year may receive as much as $300 towards their electric bill. The added assistance dollars will also expand the program’s reach, significantly increasing the number of receiving households to approximately 300.
  • $100,000 in energy efficiency funding will be made available to all customer-owners, regardless of income. Customers who do not qualify as low-income will receive higher incentives than usual to install qualifying energy efficient heat pumps. Incentives include interest-free financing and/or cash rebates. Low-income customer-owners may receive increased incentives to improve their home’s efficiency, whether it is rented or owned. “These funds will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis,” he said.

Customers seeking the low-income Helping Hands energy assistance may apply at Catholic Social Services, Community Sharing, Junction City Local Aid, Mid Lane Cares or by contacting Emerald PUD.

Individuals who would like to contribute to Helping Hands now can call Emerald PUD at 541-746-1583 to make a one-time contribution or add an additional amount when they pay their bill. In 2016, $45,000 was distributed to 268 low-income households through federal utility assistance programs and Helping Hands.