As the Public Utility Commission marks the 12th year of its “Prepare Now” initiative, Friday it reminded electric and natural gas utilities to take extra steps to help consumers – especially those on limited and fixed incomes, to “Prepare Now” for winter heating costs.
A letter signed by all five PUC Commissioners was sent to electric and natural gas utilities under the PUC’s jurisdiction asking the utilities to join the PUC in reaching out and educating consumers, especially those on limited and fixed incomes.
The letter contained specific suggestions as to how the utilities can help because the utilities have more flexibility to make allowances for payment-troubled customers than the PUC does under the law. The utilities are asked to inform the PUC of any of the suggested actions they implement.
The Prepare Now campaign provides consumers with simple tips to lower their energy bills, including shopping for electricity and natural gas, as well as tips to conserve energy around the house. It also offers information about low-income programs that help consumers restore and maintain service.
”Pennsylvania experienced an extremely harsh winter last year and while there is good news for energy consumers as current predictions forecast lower winter energy costs, we recognize that still many families are not prepared to handle the costs associated with winter energy bills,” the Commission wrote.
The letter encourages consumers on limited or fixed incomes to call their utility 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).
It also appeals to the companies to increase efforts to educate consumers with limited or fixed incomes about special programs such as CAPS, LIURP and budget billing, which assist consumers in paying their energy bills and controlling their energy usage, and at the same time, reminds them of the provisions under Chapter 56 of the Public Utility Code that impose an obligation of good faith, honesty and fair dealing in its performance and enforcement.
The PUC’s message is simple: Prepare Now for winter energy costs. Learn more about conservation. Check your electric and natural gas bills and supplier contracts. Use PAPowerSwitch.com to shop for service. Look into programs that help low-income customers maintain service.
The PUC employs consumer outreach specialists who provide utility education and assistance to consumers. This team of consumer education specialists reaches out to consumers by traveling throughout the state conducting or participating in workshop events, free seminars, roundtable discussions and community fairs.
During those events, plain language materials and literature designed to educate consumers about assistance programs and their rights are handed out. Materials include information on consumer rights in dealing with terminations and reconnections, available low-income programs and tips on how to “Prepare Now” for winter.
For more information on hosting a PUC consumer outreach specialist at a community event, please call 717-787-5722.For more information on energy conservation and assistance programs, visit the PUC’s Prepare Now webpage or call the PUC at 1-800-692-7380. #PrepareNow