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Energy Assistance Programs in Texas

Energy Assistance Information

PUC (Public Utility Commision) rules require utilities to maintain information about bill payment assistance and energy efficiency programs.  

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) is the state agency responsible for contracting with local agencies to provide bill payment assistance under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program.  

Congress appropriates funds annually for both.  To qualify in Texas household income must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline.  LIHEAP and weatherization are not entitlement programs and access is limited by funding.  

The LIHEAP and weatherization programs are available in each of the 254 Texas counties.   The toll-free Hotline for locating the billing assistance and weatherization program agencies that serve your area is 1 (877) 399-8939 or online at https://tdhca.state.tx.us/overview.htm

LITE-UP TEXAS

The LITE-UP TEXAS rate discount provided in deregulated service areas ended August 31, 2016.  It is still worthwhile for low income customers to qualify for the program.  The rules designed to help LITE-UP TEXAS customers are still in place and will continue after the rate discount is gone.  

These include:

1) the rule waiving late fees.

2) the rule allowing eligible customers to pay a security deposit in two equal installments in two months.

3) the rule that guarantees eligibility for deferred payment plans during weather emergencies and times of the year when bills are high.

4) a rule establishing a priority for Commission distribution of funds for deposit payment assistance during a mass transition to transitioned customers enrolled in the rate reduction program.  

5) access to an Advanced Metering System program to provide in-home devices to low-income customers.  

To qualify household income must be at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline or the customer must receive benefits from the Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS).  A third party central administrator manages the LITE-UP rate discount program.  Many recipients of benefits from TDHS are enrolled automatically.  Call toll free at 1-866-454-8387 for more information.  You may also access an application on the PUC website at www.puc.texas.gov.  The LITE-UP TEXAS office also qualifies households for telephone lifeline rates.  

Other Rate Discount Programs

Some regulated and municipal electric providers waive fees or provide other discounts to low-income customers.  Examples are Austin Energy, El Paso Electric, and Entergy Gulf States.  Ask your electricity provider if you are eligible for any special programs.   

Bill Payment Assistance – Standard Service

PUC rules require REPs (Retail Electric Providers) and utilities to maintain information about bill payment assistance and energy efficiency programs for their customers.  The largest bill payment assistance program is the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) operated by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).  LIHEAP helps pay utility bills for eligible households when funds are available.  Other bill payment assistance programs funded through charitable donations (dollar check off programs, stockholder donations, employee contributions) are run by local organizations such as community action agencies, Salvation Army, Red Cross, senior citizen centers, and churches.  Locate the billing assistance program agencies that serve your area by calling toll free 1 (877) 399-8939.  You can also locate information online at www.tdhca.state.tx.us.  

Bill Payment Assistance - Prepaid Service

Many REPs (Retail Electric Providers) are now offering prepaid service to residential customers.  The target market for prepaid service is low-income households.  Under a prepaid plan the customer does not receive a monthly bill.  It is the customer’s responsibility to monitor the account.  It is the REPs responsibility to provide information electronically about the account.  Many bill payment assistance programs including the federally funded program and programs funded by counties do not provide energy assistance to customers taking prepaid service.  

Weatherization Assistance

The weatherization assistance program makes building improvements to reduce a low-income customer’s energy use.  The program is provided at no cost to the customer.  Some examples of the energy saving improvements provided under the program are insulation, caulking and weatherstripping, emergency repair of air conditioners and furnaces, replacement high efficiency window air conditioners, high efficiency lighting and refrigerators.  Weatherization funds are very limited in deregulated service areas.  Locate the weatherization assistance program agencies that serves your area by calling toll free 1 (888) 606-8889.  You can also locate information online at www.tdhca.state.tx.us.  

For Profit Energy Efficiency Programs

Many utilities fund energy efficiency programs to serve low-income consumers that are operated by for-profit contractors.  The programs are available at no or low cost.  Contact your REP (Retail Electric Provider) for information about programs available in your area.