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PA Universal Service Programs Continue to Expand

Pennsylvania's electric and gas utilities spent about $437.6 million on low-income rate assistance and energy efficiency programs during 2009, an 11 percent increase over the $394 million spent in 2008.

This is according to the 10th annual summary of the universal service programs and collections performance of each of the state’s major electric and natural gas distribution companies released earlier this month by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

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, also known as fuel funds.  The CAPs and LIURP are by far the largest programs.

Highlights from the 2009 report include that electric companies:

  • Used $202,492,668 to enroll 270,537 customers in CAPs (rate assistance programs) where on average those customers pay 79 percent of their total bill;
  • Spent $24,758,372 to provide 20,562 households with LIURP benefits.  The companies have budgeted $26,869,357 in 2010;
  • Saw 11,655 customers receive over $3.8 million in hardship fund benefits.

Highlights also include that natural gas companies:

  • Used $197,875,832 to enroll 192,924 customers in CAPs where on average those customers pay 87 percent of their total bill;
  • Spent $12,542,508 to provide 4,418 households with LIURP benefits.  The companies have budgeted $12,493,568 in 2010; and
  • Saw about 9,521 customers receive nearly $3.8 million in hardship fund benefits.

Source: PA PUC