How ESI Began Saving Lives

Energy Services Inc. (ESI) was organized in 1982 as a response to the growing number of life-threatening crisis situations in Dane county. The tragic death of an elderly woman, followed by another elderly and disabled victim dying of heat stroke in the county, raised the consciousness of area residents. They were called to action to assure that those most vulnerable during the harsh winters and the blistering heat of the summer would not face another life-threatening crisis alone. This call-to-action came at a time when a number of organizations attempted unsuccessfully to respond to the alarming increase of households without heat or power because of unsafe heating units or the inability to pay their skyrocketing energy costs.

This past year, more than 267,000 low-income households — particularly the elderly, disabled and working families with young children — faced or experienced a life-threatening energy-related crisis. This past heating season alone, in its 17-county service centers, ESI provided more than 70,000 households with energy-related assistance/grants/services to support the household’s 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 also focused successfully on fundraising initiatives on a grassroots level throughout Wisconsin.

The primary mission of Energy Services, Inc. is to provide limited income families with the services and assistance necessary to prevent and or alleviate energy-related emergencies from occurring, while promoting initiatives that result in a family’s long-term self-sufficiency.

The agency’s secondary mission is to leverage other resources from public/private, labor, charitable foundations and other sources to offset the gap between growing unmet energy-related needs and declining federal funds.

ESI is recognized nationally and statewide for its effective outreach efforts that identify those most isolated at risk such as the elderly, disabled and working families with young children. The agency serves as the national model for directly interfacing government, utility, charitable and other community initiatives through its contractual relationships for energy-related assistance. This has resulted in the maximum impact of services possible for those with the highest unmet needs.

ESI also seamlessly provides and administers a variety of integrated programs that directly interface with county health and human services departments, aging, utility, and other basic needs-based organizations, utility customer assistance, and charitable emergency energy funds. This includes Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, which provides low-income households with comprehensive case management, energy and conservation services.

Households are eligible for ESI preventative and case management services. Special need cases receive furnace, emergency and crisis energy assistance grants/services. Once identified for our program, those with the highest needs are referred to budget counseling, arranging for deferred payments, and referring its clients to low-income weatherization programs and to other agencies that will assist them in meeting other basic needs and promoting long-term self-sufficiency.