PUC Pitches Ways to Conserve and Save Energy During Cold Weather

With January utility bills reflecting higher energy costs and increased cold weather energy usage for many consumers, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is reminding electric customers that the start of the new year is a good time to explore ways to conserve energy and save – including comparing prices for electric generation, evaluating competitive supplier offers and looking at competitive market options such as time-of-use and renewable energy products.

Energy usage is a key factor in the size of winter energy bills, and there are many ways that consumers can control that usage.  Energy saving tips include:

  • Pay attention to the thermostat – Every degree you raise or lower the temperature could impact energy costs by up to 3%. Also, consider a programmable thermostat to automatically lower temperatures at night or while you are away from home.
  • Keep furnaces and ducts clean – Regular furnace maintenance along with clean filters and ducts help ensure efficient operation of your heating system.
  • Winterize your home – Adding insulation, installing storm windows and doors, and sealing cracks and air leaks can help you stay warmer and use less energy.
  • Check your hot water heater – Temperatures over 120 degrees can be a major power drain.
  • Run full loads – Waiting for full loads in washers and dishwashers can help reduce the use of hot water and limit the amount of energy needed to heat that water.

In most areas of Pennsylvania, consumers can choose who supplies their electricity, based on price or other factors, such as renewable energy.

Most Pennsylvania regulated electric utilities recently adjusted the price they charge for the generation portion of customers’ bills for non-shopping customers, also known as the “Price to Compare” (PTC). The PTC averages 40% to 60% of the customer’s total utility bill. However, this percent varies by utility and by the level of individual customer usage.

Due to year-end changes in transmission rates, the Commission also highlighted that on January 1st some regulated utilities again adjusted their “Price to Compare” (PTC) on electric generation costs, including the following:

  • Citizens’ Electric, down from 7.9476 cents to 7.8005 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh);
  • PPL, down from 9.502 cents to 8.941 cents per kWh; and
  • Wellsboro Electric, up from 7.5051 cents to 7.7569 cents per kWh.

For consumers struggling with paying utility bills, the PUC continues to encourage them to contact their utilities.  Public utilities are the first and most direct mechanisms to link struggling households with much-needed assistance – whether those financial difficulties are related to the COVID pandemic, the ongoing state and national recovery or other challenging circumstances.  The PUC emphasized that direct conversations between customers and utilities are the best “first step.”

Utilities understand the assistance programs available in their communities for income-qualified consumers – including utility-run Customer Assistance Programs, national programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and various hardship fund programs operated by utilities and non-profit organizations. Utilities also can help enroll consumers in assistance programs, guide them to other available resources and discuss new payment plan options to address overdue balances and help consumers move forward.