The 60,000-plus UGI Utilities natural gas customers in Lancaster County will see a smaller base rate hike than the utility requested, and that hike will come in two steps, along with additional help for those struggling to pay their bills.
Under a settlement approved by the state Public Utility Commission on Thursday, the two-step process will result in a total increase in the average residential customer’s bill of $5.71 (6.2%) between now and October 2023, compared to a $9.39 per month (9.5%) increase that UGI requested.
The average bill for a residential customer using 73.1 cubic feet (Ccf) per month of natural gas will increase from a current bill of $92.49 per month to $96.93, effective Oct. 29 and rise to $98.21, effective Oct. 1, 2023, according to the PUC.
The settlement gives UGI an increase in base rate revenues of $49.45 million per year, which is an approximately 40% reduction from the utility’s initial request of $82.7 million.
The base rate – which allows a utility to recoup the expense of operating its system plus a return – comprises about 65% of a customer’s bill. The distribution rate, which represents the cost of natural gas and is passed on directly to the customer without a mark-up – is about 35%, although those percentages can fluctuate when wholesale prices for natural gas go up or down.
UGI’s last increase due to rising gas costs was a 7.4% hike June 1. At that time, the company projected another increase due to rising gas prices of 5.3% Dec. 1. That requested increase is still working its way through the state’s review process.
Expanding help for struggling customers
The settlement also requires UGI boost a number of its programs that are designed to identify and aid customers struggling to pay their bills.
Those changes include:
Additional annual funding, extended eligibility and increased maximum project size for the Low Income Usage Reduction Program, which provides energy saving improvements to qualifying households to help reduce their utility bills and/or usage.
Expanded eligibility for UGI’s Operation Share grant program, along with additional funding for winter 2022-2023. Operation Share is a nonprofit that provides grants to qualified customers who experience difficulty paying their heating bills. The company reports that in fiscal year 2021, Operation Share donations totaled $160,855 and helped 5,192 households.
A pilot program to identify and engage with potential low income customers.
Continued simplified application process for Pennsylvania Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program recipients seeking to enroll in UGI’s Customer Assistance Program.LIHEAP is a state program that helps families living on low incomes pay their heating bills in the form of a cash grant. CAP provides a personalized monthly payment based on income and average bill and it may grant past due debt forgiveness with on time monthly payments.
Continued active outreach to customers who have not recertified for CAP.
More information about UGI programs that help customers pay or reduce bills is available at ugi.com, by calling 800-276-2722 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about LIHEAP is available at 1-866-857-7095, Monday through Friday or through the Lancaster County Assistance Office, 832 Manor St., 717-299-7411
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Crédito: LANCASTERONLINE | Staff