Thursday, April 6, 2017

PUC Begins Investigation Of Low-Income Energy Conservation, Assistance Programs

The Public Utility Commission Thursday unanimously approved a motion by commissioners Andrew Place and David Sweet to begin an investigation of energy conservation and assistance programs aimed at low-income electric and natural gas customers.
“The PUC requires electric and natural gas utilities offer universal service-- Customer Assistance Programs, Low-Income Usage Reduction Programs, Customer Assistance and Referral Evaluation Services and Hardship Funds-- and energy conservation programs that are developed, maintained and appropriately funded to ensure affordability and cost-effectiveness,” the motion said.
“Considering the Commission’s recent action as part of a broader evaluation of universal service and energy conservation policies, we believe it is important to ensure ample stakeholder feedback throughout all steps of the process,” noted Commissioner Sweet. “These programs affect all ratepayers, whether through direct assistance to qualifying customers or through the surcharge that funds universal service programs. As such, the feedback of stakeholders representing all interests, from low-income customers to consumer interest advocates to utilities, is necessary to ensure any outcomes are cost-effective and in the public interest.  Only through collaboration can we address all relevant issues and balance the needs of all stakeholders.”
The motion noted in December, the PUC released a Secretarial Letter seeking informal stakeholder input on a number of Low-Income Usage Reduction Programs intended to be used in possible future rulemaking and recently voted to initiate a study regarding affordable home energy burdens for low-income Pennsylvanians
“Together, the data and input gathered through these initiatives will help guide future actions by the Commission regarding Universal Service Programs,” noted Vice Chairman Place
As a first step in the PUC’s review, the motion directs the Commission’s Law Bureau will develop a report on the statutory, regulatory and policy frameworks of existing universal service programs and the steps required to initiate any proposed changes within 30 days of this order being entered.
Second, interested stakeholders may file comments on priorities, concerns and suggestions for amending and improving any or all of the universal service and energy conservation programs within 90 days of the order.  Comments may also address the Law Bureau’s report.
Third, within 60 days after the due date for public comments, the Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Services will coordinate a stakeholder meeting to solicit feedback on the comments received by the PUC.  An additional comment period will be provided after this meeting.
Fourth, the Bureau of Consumer Services and Law Bureau will prepare a report replying to comments receive, and summarizing options proposed by stakeholders.
A copy of the motion is available online.
PUC Launches Review Of Low-Income Utility Programs

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