The Public Utility Commission Friday urged any resident without heat-related utility service to take immediate action to seek assistance, noting that numerous utility assistance programs are available to help restore and maintain electric and natural gas service.
“Since last December, the number of Pennsylvania households without heat-related electric utility service has been cut by nearly half, while the number of households without heat-related natural gas service has been reduced by one-quarter,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “Still, more than 16,000 households across the state lack a safe central heating source, and I urge any consumer without service to call their utility, the PUC or human service agencies in their communities to learn more about the many resources available.”
The PUC’s Cold Weather Survey, conducted prior to the start of each winter heating season, requires regulated electric and natural gas utilities to survey residential properties where service has been terminated and not reconnected during the course of the calendar year.
Midway through the winter those utilities are required to conduct a follow-up survey, identifying any changes in the number of residences that are without utility-related heat or using potentially unsafe heating sources.
The re-survey detailed the following changes, as of February 2:
-- The total of 16,467 Pennsylvania homes were identified as not using a central heating system or using potentially unsafe heat, as compared to 24,175 reported in the initial Cold Weather Survey – a 32 percent improvement.
-- 4,988 residences are without electric utility service, compared to 9,169 reported in December 2015 – a 46 percent reduction.
-- 11,479 residences are without natural gas utility service, compared to 15,006 reported in December 2015 – a 24 percent reduction.
Some households may be without both electric and natural gas service, resulting in a double counting of some households.
The PUC continues reaching out to both consumers and utilities as part of its ongoing “Prepare Now” campaign; urging residents on limited or fixed incomes to call their utilities about programs to help heat their homes or pay their energy bills, such as Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs) and Low Income Usage Reduction Programs (LIURP).
According to the PUC’s most recent Universal Service Report, those assistance programs impact more than 770,000 households and are valued at over $414 million per year.The Commission has also appealed to utilities to increase their outreach efforts to educate consumers about other available resources, such as grants under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – which is administered by the Department of Human Services – with information available through local County Assistance Offices or via the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.