03-24-2018  6:38 am      •     
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By The Skanner News

With cold weather already hitting the Willamette Valley, low-income residents will have $15 million in grants to weatherize their homes and pay heating bills.

A new Web site also is available to help Oregonians learn about energy assistance programs and develop strategies to save energy and money. The site is www.warmoregon.org.

The $15 million home weatherization grants are the result of settlements with El Paso Corp. and Duke Energy reached after an investigation of price manipulation and antitrust violations in the Western power market. The attorneys general of Oregon, California and Washington initiated the investigation in January 2001.

So far, the investigation has resulted in settlements totaling over $2 billion, of which approximately $50 million has been allocated to Oregon. Of that, $15 million will be dedicated to helping approximately 15,000 Oregon households pay heating bills and another 1,000 families weatherize their homes, said Attorney General Hardy Myers.

"This winter Oregonians will be faced with record heating bills," Myers said. "These grants will have an immediate and lasting impact on the Oregonians most victimized during the price spikes of 2000 and 2001."

The grants provide $5.5 million to help pay the energy bills of low-income households through Oregon HEAT, a nonprofit company committed to helping low-income Oregonians meet their household energy needs and move them toward energy self-reliance; and Oregon Housing and Community Services. In the past, assistance has amounted to about $300 per household in a typical heating season, but costs are expected to rise significantly during the coming winter months.

Another $4.5 million is being allocated to weatherize low-income dwelling units, including existing housing and new, energy-efficient housing yet to be built through programs conducted by Oregon Housing and Community Services.

A $350,000 grant also will fund research to show the cost-effectiveness of low-income energy assistance. Sponsored by Oregon HEAT, the research will be conducted by Quantec Inc., a Portland-based organization specializing in environmental research.

Oregon HEAT has  already received a $250,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust. Results of the research will be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of providing assistance to ratepayers rather than relying on termination and collection activities that may force those unable to pay their bills to abandon their dwellings.

The grants also will provide about $800,000 to support a statewide case management system through Housing and Community Services. Case managers based at community action agencies will be able to help families seeking bill-paying assistance to also become eligible for weatherization and conservation training.

Some smaller programs are included in the grant distribution. For example, $320,000 will be allocated to install solar hot water heaters in 75 low-income homes and develop a template for such programs. Another $180,000 will fund Energy Share Plus, a Lane County program that combines services including energy education, efficient appliances and some bill payments for low-income households, including extremely low-income, elderly and disabled Oregonians.

The attorney general also has allocated $125,000 to the Portland-based Community Energy Project Inc. to expand its program, which makes extensive use of volunteers to provide workshops, training and in-home weatherization kits for extremely low-income Oregonians.

The Department of Justice's Consumer Protection and Education Account will receive $1.2 million for continuing enforcement efforts.

The Web site, www.warmoregon.org, is a product of the Oregon Department of Energy. The site is designed to provide Oregonians with an array of resources to help contain energy costs both at home and at work. It includes information on weatherization, bill paying, energy use reduction and offers other energy-related tips designed to save Oregonians money and preserve resources. OregonHEAT can be reached by phone at 503-612-3790.

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