PUC Acts on Universal Service and Energy Conservation Plans for PPL Electric and Philadelphia Gas Works; Cites Ongoing Work to Improve Efficiency, Lower Cost of Statewide Universal Service Programs

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HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today acted on Universal Service and Energy Conservation Plans (USECP) for PPL Electric Utilities Corporation (PPL) and Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW).  In doing so, the PUC reaffirmed its ongoing commitment to evaluating and improving these programs, while ensuring they continue to make utility service more affordable for low-income Pennsylvanians.

The Commission voted 4-0 to direct changes to PPL’s USECP prior to final approval.  PPL’s USECP is a three-year plan extending through 2019, with a renewed emphasis on a Commission directive to reduce both energy burden levels of low-income customers as well as reducing program costs to implement its four major USECP components:  OnTrack, PPL’s Customer Assistance Program; the Winter Relief Assistance Program (WRAP), the company’s Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP); PPL’s Hardship Fund, Operation Help; and the Customer Assistance and referral Evaluation Services Program (CARES).

The Commission voted 4-0 to approve PGW’s USECP.  PGW’s USECP extends through 2020, highlighted by a modified recertification process for the company’s Customer Responsibility Program (CRP) as well as a new pilot program for greater health and safety measures under PGW’s LIURP, known as Home Comfort.  Additionally, PGW pledges to continue to improve upon its outreach efforts to increase low-income customer participation in these programs.

On March 16, 2017, the PUC moved to initiate a study regarding affordable home energy burdens for low-income Pennsylvanians.  Conducted by the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services, the study is evaluating the affordability of current energy burden levels as outlined in the Commission’s 1992 Customer Assistance Program (CAP) Policy Statement.  A report detailing the findings of the study will be delivered to the Commission within one year.

On April 6, 2017, as part of a broad evaluation of Public Utility Commission (PUC) policies related to USECPs, the PUC voted to explore the framework and structure of existing universal service programs and gather stakeholder feedback addressing concerns and suggestions for amending or improving these programs.  The Pennsylvania Public Utility Code requires utility services be universally affordable, and that universal service and energy conservation programs be developed, maintained, and appropriately funded to ensure such affordability.

The current portfolio of PUC-required universal service programs includes payment programs intended to help reduce the size of monthly bills and make service more affordable for low-income households, generically referred to as Customer Assistance Programs or CAPs; weatherization and energy efficient usage reduction programs to assist low-income families in lowering their consumption and energy costs, known as LIURPs; referral programs to connect consumers with other assistance services, or CARES; and utility hardship funds. Collectively, these programs serve residents with incomes at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guideline, roughly $36,900 a year for a family of four.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility.  “Like” Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Facebook for easy access to information on utility issues.

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