“Heat, which is a basic necessity, has become an unaffordable luxury for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites at no fault of their own.”
-Tim Bruer, executive director, Energy Services, Inc.
The Hard Numbers
Some people ask us, “What about the $3 per year charge on my utility bill?” That $3 is a state public benefits charge. It was designed to augment declining Federal home energy assistance funds. It was part of the electric deregulation bill in 2007. The bill provided dollars for energy efficiency, home weatherization and energy assistance. Unfortunately, most of the money went to energy conservation and weatherization — very little went for keeping utilities and heat on.
The History of ESI
Energy Services, Inc., (ESI) was founded in 1979 as a delegate Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP) and the successor of the Dane County Community Action Commission (CAC). ESI was launched through the efforts of the Dane County Board and the Human Services Department with the support of a cross-section of other community leaders concerned with the escalating numbers of elderly and low-income households going without heat and facing recurring life-threatening situations.
Faced with increasing state mandates and ballooning county caseloads, ESI — along with the county human services departments and other emergency service providers — pioneered the first state-contracted Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) with a nonprofit agency. ESI, with its existing status and proven experience in Federal economic support, was established as a non-profit with WHEAP to administer and implement federal/non-government energy, conservation, and economic programs related to meeting the short- and long-term basic needs of low-income households. In addition, the agency provides the assistance necessary to maximize client participation and interface with other economic support programs and services that promote long-term self-sufficiency.
ESI became an independent non-profit organization in 1982 and received 501(c)3 designation in 1984. Based on the successful implementation of a state/county contracted WHEAP, ESI expanded its relationship with other county departments of Human Services. Dodge County joined in 1987, Columbia in 1990, Rock in 1991, Marathon, Portage, Sauk, Waupaca and Waukesha in 1992, followed by Jefferson in 1998, Marquette in 2000, Fond Du Lac in 2001, Winnebago and Outagamie in 2002, Racine in 2011, Calumet and Ozaukee in 2012.
ESI has other contractual relationships with selected counties. They include Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANIF), federal FEMA, and other energy and housing assistance. ESI also has contractual relationships for the administration of low-income energy customer utility service programs, i.e. establish relationships with the primary utilities serving Wisconsin. This provides for maximum coordination and benefits to low income households.
This past year, more than 267,000 low-income households — particularly the elderly, disabled and working families with young children — experienced a life-threatening energy related crisis situation.
This past heating season alone, in its 14-county service centers, ESI provided more than 70,000 households with energy-related assistance/grants/services to maintain the households long-term self-sufficiency. In response to declining resources and other uncertainties, the agency broadened its mission to not only increase existing public awareness of the growing energy plight faced by Wisconsin’s elderly and low-income households, but to focus successfully on fundraising initiatives on a grassroots level.