Cold Weather Rule

Cold Weather Rule  Minn Stat §216B.097

A municipal utility or a cooperative electric association must not disconnect and must reconnect the utility service of a residential customer during the period between October 15 and April 15 if the disconnection affects the primary heat source and the customer meets the eligibility criteria below.

Customer Eligibility
To be eligible for protection from residential utility service shutoff, a customer must meet the following criteria and requirements:

  1. The household income of the customer is at or below 50 percent of the state median household income.
    1. A customer is deemed to meet the income requirements if the customer receives any form of public assistance - including energy assistance - that uses an income eligibility threshold set at or below 50 percent of the state median household income.  The utility may:
      1. obtain verification of income from the local energy assistance provider, if available, or
      2. require income information from the customer on forms provided by the utility and compare it to the current state median household income figure available on the Energy Assistance Eligibility page at the website of the Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources.
  2. The customer enters into and makes reasonably timely payments under a payment agreement that considers the financial resources of the household. (Exhibit VI)

Utility Duties
Between August 15 and October 15 each year, all utilities must notify all residential customers of the Cold Weather Rule protections.  (Exhibit II)

All utilities must provide customers seeking protection with referrals to energy assistance, weatherization, conservation, or other programs likely to reduce the customer’s energy bills. (Exhibit V)

Customer Notification Before Disconnection
Before disconnecting service to a residential customer during the period between October 15 and April 15, a municipal utility or co-op must provide the customer with all of the following items:

  1. A notice of the proposed disconnection (Exhibit III)
  2. A statement explaining the customer’s rights and responsibilities (Exhibit IV)
  3. A list of local energy assistance providers (Exhibit V)
  4. Forms on which to declare the inability to pay (Exhibit VI)
  5. A statement explaining available time payment plans and other opportunities to secure continued utility service (Exhibit VII)

Disconnection Restrictions
If a residential customer is to be involuntarily disconnected between October 15 and April 15, the disconnection may not occur:

  1. on a Friday, unless that day the customer declines to enter in to a payment agreement offered by the municipal utility or co-op via personal contact or telephone,
  2. on a weekend, holiday, or day before a holiday,
  3. when utility offices are closed, or
  4. after the close of business, unless a field representative of the utility who is authorized to enter into a payment agreement, accept payment, and continue service, offers a payment agreement to the customer.

Disconnection must not occur until at least 20 days after the disconnection notice (described above) has been mailed to the customer or 15 days after the notice has been personally delivered to the customer.

Non-Responsive Customer
If a customer does not respond to a disconnection notice, the customer must not be disconnected until the utility investigates whether the residential unit is actually occupied.

  1.  If the unit is found to be occupied, the utility must immediately inform the occupant of the provisions of the Cold Weather Rule.
  2. If the unit is unoccupied, the utility must give seven days written notice of the proposed disconnection to the local energy assistance provider before making a disconnection.

Customer Appeals
Under the Cold Weather Rule, if a customer appeals a notice of involuntary disconnection prior to disconnection, as provided by the utility’s established appeal procedure, the utility must not disconnect the customer until the appeal is resolved.

Service Limiters
Under the Cold Weather Rule, “disconnection” includes a service or load limiter or any device that limits or interrupts electric service in any way.

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