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As some may already be aware, the Local Energy Efficiency Partnerships (LEEP) has died in the Legislature. After much time in the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee, it finally passed out of there and was ready for the Senate Floor. But instead, at the behest of lobbyists from First Energy and American Electric Power (AEP), the bill was assigned to the “rules committee”. For all intents, the rules committee is where Senate leadership puts a bill that is being shelved. That assignment meant that there was no way that the bill would pass the Senate and go over to the House for consideration by “crossover” day (Wednesday) So, for this year, the bill is dead.
What is amazing about this turn of events is that the bill had no effect on AEP or First Energy, unless you count that they might sell a bit less electricity if commercial businesses were to be able to finance energy efficiency through a funding mechanism that local governments would create. Rather than going to First Energy and AEP profits, that money would be saved by local businesses. Supporting local businesses is a good thing, or so the state legislature has said. But in the case of the Senate leadership, that support of local business is not as important as making sure large utility companies get their way. We should remember that when they, particular First Energy, submit their plans for energy efficiency to the PSC later this month. If First Energy says that they can better do energy efficiency programs than having LEEP, then put that on the table. Otherwise, get out of the way and let local governments help finance energy efficiency in small business. In short, put up or get out of the way.
Reducing energy costs of commercial buildings helps keep tenants in those buildings. It helps the bakery make more money. It helps the small machine shop run more efficiently. It helps local contractors build their business and provide jobs. The jobs created by energy efficiency upgrades are local, well-paying, skilled labor. Lower electricity bill for businesses makes it easier for them to stay in business and in West Virginia. It helps their employees stay also. Isn’t that what we want?
Thirty other states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar programs. Why not us? I certainly hope that the next legislature will pass this important legislature and help us LEEP into the future.