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PA PUC Releases Annual Universal Service Report

August 15, 2012 -- The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today released its 12th annual summary of the universal service programs and collections performance of each of the state's major electric distribution companies and natural gas distribution companies.

Universal service programs are those designed to help ensure that all customers have access to utility service no matter what their income. Programs include the Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP), Customer Assistance Program (CAP), Customer Assistance and Referral Evaluation Services (CARES) and Hardship Funds. The largest programs are the CAPs, which generally provide a percentage-of-bill plan or a percentage-of-income payment plan, wherein low-income customers' utility payments are based upon their incomes and/or utility bills.

Generally, electric and natural gas customers enrolled in universal service programs have average household incomes that are less than $15,287 a year. According to the report, the gross write-offs ratio for the electric industry was 1.85 percent in 2011, compared to 1.78 percent in 2010, while the natural gas industry average was 3.21 percent in 2011 and 3.66 percent in 2010.

Highlights from the 2011 report include that electric companies:

  • Spent just over $250 million to enroll 306,213 customers in CAPs
  • Saw their customers receive more than $57 million in LIHEAP benefits
  • Spent almost $26 million to provide 19,316 households with LIURP (usage reduction/energy efficiency) benefits. The companies have budgeted $27.3 million for LIURP in 2012; and
  • Saw 9,100 customers receive over $3 million in hardship fund benefits

Highlights also include that natural gas companies:

  • Spent about $151.7 million to enroll 189,691 customers in CAPs
  • Saw their customers receive more than $103 million in LIHEAP benefits
  • Spent $16.8 million to provide 3,574 households with LIURP benefits. The companies have budgeted $18.2 million in 2012; and
  • Saw 9,200 customers receive nearly $5 million in hardship fund benefits

Source: PUC press release