Public Benefit Funds (PBF), also frequently referred to as system benefits charge, are state-level programs developed through the electric industry restructuring process. PBFs allocate most of their money to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and low-income assistance programs. PBF-supported programs include research and development and demand-side management. Furthermore, several utilities may apply PBFs to help meet their Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and/or their state’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS).
The funds are most commonly supported through a small charge on the customer utility bills (e.g., cents per kWh of electricity sales or per therm of natural gas sales) or through specified contributions from utilities (e.g., percentage of contributions from a utility’s gross operating revenue). In some cases, a fee on the customer’s bill is assessed for using the electricity distribution system and can not be bypassed. However, some states allow a customer to opt-out, or bypass the fee, if electricity is either self generated, purchased from exempted markets, or the customer’s assets are restructured to avoid fee eligibility.