PUC Highlights Ways Consumers Can Manage Energy Usage and Energy Costs, Helping to Control the Size of Winter Energy Bills
Published on 12/14/2021
PUC Also Encourages Families to #CallUtilitiesNow to Explore Utility Assistance Programs and Other Energy Affordability Options
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille today highlighted ways that consumers can manage their energy usage and energy costs, help control the size of winter energy bills – joining Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell with tips for energy conservation and efficiency, while also encouraging struggling consumers to #CallUtilitiesNow to discuss utility assistance programs.
“When it comes to winter energy bills, there are three main factors: your energy usage, the cost of energy, and the weather,” noted PUC Chair Gladys Brown Dutrieuille. “While consumers cannot control the weather, they can and should explore ways that they can manage both energy usage and the cost of that energy.”
Managing Energy Usage
Energy usage is a key factor in the size of winter energy bills and there are many ways that consumers can control that usage:
Energy saving tips include:
- Pay attention to the thermostat – Every degree you raise or lower the temperature could impact energy costs by up to 3%. Also, consider a programmable thermostat to automatically lower temperatures at night or while you are away from home.
- Keep furnaces and ducts clean – Regular furnace maintenance along with clean filters and ducts help ensure efficient operation of your heating system.
- Winterize your home – Adding insulation, installing storm windows and doors, and sealing cracks and air leaks can help you stay warmer and use less energy.
- Check your hot water heater – Temperatures over 120 degrees can be a major power drain.
- Run full loads – Waiting for full loads in washers and dishwashers can help reduce the use of hot water and limit the amount of energy needed to heat that water.
Managing Energy Costs
The cost of energy used each month – either electricity or natural gas – is the second key factor in the size of customer bills, and most Pennsylvania consumers can shop for competitive energy suppliers who may be able to provide energy cost savings or other benefits.
It is important for consumers to understand the two major parts of their monthly electric or natural gas bills:
- Delivery/distribution charge – This charge includes the cost for the operation and maintenance of the poles, wires, pipelines and other infrastructure that delivers energy to your home or business. This portion of your monthly bill supports your local utility.
- Generation/supply charge – This charge covers the cost of the energy (electricity or natural gas) used during the month. Consumers can shop for competitive suppliers for this part of their bill. The energy cost for this portion of the bill is determined by your contract with a competitive supplier or – for consumers who do not shop – your utility will provide that energy at the “Default Service Rate” or “Price to Compare.”
Depending on the time of year, the national energy market, and individual preferences, consumers may be able to find energy price offers from competitive suppliers that are lower than their utility’s Price to Compare.
The PUC’s PAPowerSwitch.com and PAGasSwitch.com energy shopping websites provide consumers and small businesses with valuable information on how to shop for energy supply services – enabling consumers to quickly compare offers from competitive suppliers against the default service rate from their local utility and learn more on switching to a competitive supplier, or returning to default service, should they choose.
Working together, energy efficiency, conservation and energy shopping can have a dramatic impact on utility bills. Combined with various utility customer assistance programs, Pennsylvania families can stay connected, warm and safe through the winter.
#CallUtilitiesNow to Explore Customer Assistance Programs
For any Pennsylvania household or business struggling with utility bills – whether those financial difficulties are related to the COVID pandemic, the ongoing state and national recovery, or other challenging circumstances – the PUC emphasized that direct conversations between customers and utilities are the best “first step.”
Utilities understand the assistance programs available in their communities for income-qualified consumers – including utility-run Customer Assistance Programs, national programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and various hardship fund programs operated by utilities and non-profit organizations. Utilities also can help enroll consumers in assistance programs, guide them to other available resources and discuss new payment plan options to address overdue balances and help consumers move forward.
#CallUtilitiesNow is the best way to identify what help may be available to you, your family and your business. Also, be sure to call all your utilities: electric, natural gas, water, wastewater and telecommunications because each may have different programs or resources available.
“Last year, utilities across Pennsylvania spent approximately $362 million on universal service programs, not counting LIHEAP,” noted Chairman Dutrieuille. “Collectively, these utility programs reach over 293,000 electric customers and approximately 167,000 natural gas customers, reducing monthly energy bills; promoting weatherization and other improvements to cut energy consumption; and supporting hardship programs.”
About the PUC
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.
Visit the PUC’s website at www.puc.pa.gov for recent news releases and video of select proceedings. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. Search for the “Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission” or “PA PUC” on your favorite social media channel for updates on utility issues and other helpful consumer information.
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