80.28.065  <<  80.28.068 >>   80.28.070

RatesLow-income customers.

(1) Upon its own motion, or upon request by an electrical or gas company, or other party to a general rate case hearing, or other proceeding to set rates, the commission may approve rates, charges, services, and/or physical facilities at a discount, or through grants, for low-income senior customers and low-income customers. Expenses and lost revenues as a result of these discounts, grants, or other low-income assistance programs shall be included in the company's cost of service and recovered in rates to other customers. Each gas or electrical company must propose a low-income assistance program comprised of a discount rate for low-income senior customers and low-income customers as well as grants and other low-income assistance programs. The commission shall approve, disapprove, or approve with modifications each gas or electrical company's low-income assistance discount rate and grant program. The gas or electrical company must use reasonable and good faith efforts to seek approval for low-income program design, eligibility, operation, outreach, and funding proposals from its low-income and equity advisory groups in advance of filing such proposals with the commission. In order to remove barriers and to expedite assistance, low-income discounts or grants approved under this section must be provided in coordination with community-based organizations in the gas or electrical company's service territory including, but not limited to, grantees of the department of commerce, community action agencies, and community-based nonprofit organizations. Nothing in this section may be construed as limiting the commission's authority to approve or modify tariffs authorizing low-income discounts or grants.
(2) Eligibility for a low-income discount rate or grant established in this section may be established upon verification of a low-income customer's receipt of any means-tested public benefit, or verification of eligibility for the low-income home energy assistance program, or its successor program, for which eligibility does not exceed the low-income definition set by the commission pursuant to RCW  19.405.020. The public benefits may include, but are not limited to, assistance that provides cash, housing, food, or medical care including, but not limited to, temporary assistance for needy families, supplemental security income, emergency assistance to elders, disabled, and children, supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits, public housing, federally subsidized or state-subsidized housing, the low-income home energy assistance program, veterans' benefits, and similar benefits.
(3) Each gas or electrical company shall conduct substantial outreach efforts to make the low-income discounts or grants available to eligible customers and must provide annual reports to the commission as to the gas or electrical company's outreach activities and results. Such outreach: (a) Shall be made at least semiannually to inform customers of available rebates, discounts, credits, and other cost-saving mechanisms that can help them lower their monthly bills for gas or electrical service; and (b) may be in the form of any customary and usual methods of communication or distribution including, without limitation, widely broadcast communications with customers, direct mailing, telephone calls, electronic communications, social media postings, in-person contacts, websites of the gas or electrical company, press releases, and print and electronic media, that are designed to increase access to and participation in bill assistance programs.
(4) Outreach may include establishing an automated program of matching customer accounts with lists of recipients of the means-tested public benefit programs and, based on the results of the matching program, to presumptively offer a low-income discount rate or grant to eligible customers so identified. However, the gas or electrical company must within 60 days of the presumptive enrollment inform such a low-income customer of the presumptive enrollment and all rights and obligations of a customer under the program, including the right to withdraw from the program without penalty.
(5) A residential customer eligible for a low-income discount rate must receive the service on demand.
(6) A residential customer may not be charged for initiating or terminating low-income discount rates, grants, or any other form of energy assistance.
(7) The definitions in this subsection apply throughout this section unless the context clearly requires otherwise.
(a) "Energy burden" has the same meaning as defined in RCW  19.405.020.
(b) "Low-income" has the same meaning as defined in RCW 19.405.020.
(c) "Physical facilities" includes, but may not be limited to, a community solar project as defined in RCW  80.28.370.


Legislative directive2021 c 188: See note following RCW 80.28.425.
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