State considers reinstating low income electric program

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:21

    Public Utilities Commission also okays small rate hike to help recover the cost HARRISBURG - There were no solutions, but the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission offered a symbolic measure of assistance to Pike County last week. On March 16, the commission took the first step toward reinstituting the Low Income Pilot Program at Pike County Light and Power by seeking comments from interested parties. The program, which was discontinued in 2004, offered money for bill foregiveness and energy conservation measures, but was only funded at $7,500. The commission then discontinued the program because of the lack of customer interest. However, following a rate increase of 73-percent or more,“A growing number of Pike customers have applied for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefits and have requested payment arrangements from the company and this Commission,” said Commissioner Bill Shane. Shane made a joint motion with Commission Chairman Wendell F. Holland to seek comments to the Commission’s proposal. “In light of unprecedented increases in energy costs that Pike customers are already facing, this Commission is doing everything in its power to provide truly needy customers with assistance in paying their heating bills.” “As this Commission continues with its inquiry into the dramatic price increase in Pike County, we are looking for options to help our neighbors in need keep the lights on,” Chairman Holland. “It’s important that we gather input on reinstating a program that is dedicated to helping those who need it most.” In a statement, the commissioners said they are continuing with a fact-finding inquiry into the competitive electric market in Pike County. They are also looking into attracting more and lower-cost choices for electric customers, the way power is purchased as well as the short and long-term electric generation supply outlook for the region. A report on the inquiry, which will be prepared by the Commission’s Law Bureau, is promised by the end of March. Specific instructions on how to submit comments as well as the deadlines for submission will be available as part of the Commission’s entered order. Comments and replies will be posted on the Commission’s website at Small rate increase also approved The commission on March 16 also unanimously approved a staff recommendation endorsing the Pike Light and Power Company’s request to increase the System Benefits Charge rate to $0.000118 per kilowatt hour, effective with service rendered on and after April 1, 2006. A system benefits charge (SBC), according to a “Draft PBR report” found on the commission’s site, is “a fee paid by ratepayers to fund certain ‘public benefits’ that are placed at risk in a more competitive industry. These benefits include, but are not limited to, efficiency savings, a cleaner environment and the assurance of universal service. Programs funded by an SBC include assistance for low-income and physically-impaired customers, 911 emergency calling, renewable energy, research and development, and energy efficiency or demand-side management.”