The Public Utility Commission Thursday approved a pilot program that will change the way Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC, Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC – Equitable Division and Peoples TWP LLC (collectively Peoples Companies) charge customers to extend natural gas service to their homes.
“Pennsylvania sits on top of one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. As a result, Pennsylvania consumers and businesses should have every reasonable opportunity to take advantage of this efficient and clean-burning natural resource,” said PUC Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer in a statement. “[We] continue to challenge other natural gas utilities operating in underserved or unserved areas of the Commonwealth to begin thinking creatively on how they, too, can bring a homegrown fuel to more Pennsylvania businesses and homeowners.”
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve Peoples Companies’ implementation of the Service Expansion Tariff (SET) program, a five-year pilot program intended to reduce the upfront financial barriers faced by potential customers who are interested in receiving natural gas services in areas where gas is currently unavailable.
The joint settlement was reached among the Peoples Companies, the Commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the Office of Consumer Advocate and the Office of Small Business Advocate.
Under most natural gas company tariffs, a customer who wishes to have natural gas service extended to his or her property must pay the cost of that line extension as an upfront payment, which can amount to thousands of dollars.
The SET program allows eligible residential customers to pay the extension costs through a monthly fixed fee of $55 until the outstanding principal balance is zero, for a maximum of 25 years. If necessary, a customer may pay a portion of the extension cost upfront in order to bring the financing period down to 25 years.
Residential customers also will have an option to pay the costs for the service line through an additional monthly fee of $15, until the outstanding principal balance of the service line cost is zero.
Similar pilot programs currently offered in the Commonwealth include UGI’s Pennsylvania gas distribution utilities’ Growth Extension Tariff program, which allows eligible customers to pay extension costs over 10 years as a monthly charge; and Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania’s New Area Service program, which allows eligible customers to pay extension costs over 20 years as a monthly charge.Peoples Companies provide natural gas distribution, supply and transportation service to approximately 700,000 customers in western Pennsylvania.