HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today approved a joint motion introduced by Commissioner David W. Sweet and Vice Chairman Andrew G. Place to initiate a broad evaluation of Commission policies related to universal service and energy conservation programs.
The Commission voted 5-0 to conduct the review, exploring the framework and structure of existing universal service programs, and gathering stakeholder feedback addressing concerns and suggestions for amending or improving these programs.
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; weatherization and usage reduction programs to assist low-income families in lowering their consumption and energy costs; referral programs to connect consumers with other assistance programs they may be eligible for; and hardship funds.
“Considering the Commission’s recent action as part of a broader evaluation of universal service and energy conservation policies, we believe it is important to ensure ample stakeholder feedback throughout all steps of the process,” noted Commissioner Sweet. “These programs affect all ratepayers, whether through direct assistance to qualifying customers or through the surcharge that funds universal service programs. As such, the feedback of stakeholders representing all interests, from low-income customers to consumer interest advocates to utilities, is necessary to ensure any outcomes are cost-effective and in the public interest. Only through collaboration can we address all relevant issues and balance the needs of all stakeholders.”
Today’s motion initiates a series of reports, stakeholder meetings and comment periods intended to foster discussion about universal service and energy conservation programs. Previously, the Commission issued a Secretarial Letter initiating a review of the Low-Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP) and recently voted to initiate a study regarding affordable home energy burdens for low-income Pennsylvanians.
“Together, the data and input gathered through these initiatives will help guide future actions by the Commission regarding Universal Service Programs,” noted Vice Chairman Place
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