Pennsylvania’s universal service programs for low-income households spent about 10 percent more for rate assistance in 2008 than they did in 2007, and about 8 percent more for low-income energy efficiency programs.
This is according to the latest annual report released by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) summarizing the universal service programs and collections performance of each of the state’s major electric and natural gas distribution companies.
The state’s universal service programs, funded mostly by utility ratepayers, help ensure that all customers have access to utility service regardless of income. Programs include the Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP), Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs), Customer Assistance and Referral Evaluation Services (CARES) and Hardship Funds.
The CAPs and LIURP are by far the largest programs; utilities spent about $363.7 million on CAPs in 2008, compared to $330.3 million in 2007. On energy efficiency, the utilities spent about $30.1 million in 2008, compared to $28.1million in 2007.
Highlights from the report show that electric companies:
- Used $189,171,318 to enroll 240,002 customers in CAPs where on average those customers pay 79 percent of their total bill;
- Saw their customers receive more than $27 million in LIHEAP benefits;
- Spent $21,634,127 to provide 20,106 households with LIURP benefits. The companies have budgeted $23,243,019 in 2009;
- Saw 9,181 customers receive over $3.7 million in hardship fund benefits.
Highlights also include that natural gas companies:
- Used $174,497,927 to enroll 179,958 customers in CAPs where on average those customers pay 87 percent of their total bill;
- Saw their customers receive $53.2 million in LIHEAP benefits;
- Spent $8,918,930 to provide 3,966 households with LIURP benefits. The companies have budgeted $13,051,467 in 2009; and
- Saw about 9,254 customers receive nearly $3.8 million in hardship fund benefits.
Hardship funds operate on voluntary contributions from utility ratepayers and shareholders.
The report includes other details such as source of income and average household size of CAP and LIURP recipients, program costs per utility, including administrative costs, and LIURP energy savings and bill reduction.
The section on utility collection performance provides customer disconnection and debt data, along with residential write-offs and collection expenses.
Source: PA PUC