The House Commerce Committee discusses the efficiency program.

A House committee has adjusted a Senate bill that would have ended mandatory charges on utility bills that are used to finance energy efficiency rebate programs.

The Senate voted in mid-February to give consumers the option of making the monthly payment and participating in the programs. Advocates say making the program optional would be a death knell to energy efficiency efforts. Attorney Robert Kelter is with the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

“In the long term, energy efficiency means fewer power plants, fewer transformers and lower bills,” attorney Robert Kelter of the Environmental Law and Policy Center said this week at a House subcommittee hearing.

Dave Hein of Bulb Guy Lighting in Des Moines said without the rebates from utility companies, small businesses and churches won’t be able to afford installing energy-efficient lighting.

“I’ve been in lighting long enough to see us go from incandescent to halogen, from halogen to flourescent, from flourescent to LED,” he said. “…But innovation comes at a cost and, without an incentive, most people aren’t going to do it.”

The House Commerce Committee yesterday voted to continue the mandatory charge, but limit it to two percent of the total bill. Some customers were being charged up to nine percent.