HARRISBURG – As part of its 15th year of “Prepare Now” education efforts, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today urged utilities to help Pennsylvania consumers who may struggle with the cost of cold-weather energy bills.
The PUC’s 2017 Prepare Now campaign continues the focus on educating consumers about the availability of low-income programs; increasing awareness of ways to reduce winter heating costs; educating consumers on energy conservation; encouraging consumers to check electric and natural gas bills and supplier contracts; and informing consumers about PAPowerSwitch.com and PAGasSwitch.com as resources to shop for energy suppliers and learn more about efficiency and conservation measures.
A letter signed by the PUC Commissioners has been sent to all of Pennsylvania’s electric and natural gas utility companies under the PUC’s jurisdiction, asking them to join the Commission in educating consumers about the many winter assistance programs and services that are available. The letter also includes specific suggestions for utility companies and emphasizes that they have more flexibility to make allowances for payment-troubled customers than the PUC does, under the law.
“It is imperative that we work together to remind consumers about the availability of programs to help them maintain or restore utility service. Some individuals and families may not be familiar with these services, while changing circumstances may trigger a need for assistance for households who may not have faced this situation before,” the Commissioners wrote.
The size and reach of these programs is notable: In 2016, Pennsylvania utilities spent nearly $398 million on customer assistance programs last year. Collectively, these utility programs assisted more than 313,000 electric customers and over 160,000 natural gas customers across the state, helping heat homes or pay energy bills through Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs), Low-Income Usage Reduction Programs (LIURPs) and other services. Low-income households may also be eligible for grants under the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, a companion to the utility-based services.
Consumers interested in more information about these important programs can visit the PUC website, www.puc.pa.gov and click on the Prepare Now link, or call the PUC at 1-800-692-7380.
Consumer outreach specialists from the PUC are active across the state, conducting or participating in workshop events, free seminars, roundtable discussions and community fairs. During those events, plain language materials and literature designed to educate consumers about assistance programs and their rights are handed out. Materials include information on consumer rights in dealing with terminations and reconnections, available low-income programs and tips on how to Prepare Now for winter. For more information on hosting a PUC consumer outreach specialist at a community event, please call 717-787-5722.
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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