Consumers Should Take Advantage of Opportunities to Save

Money through Efficiency Measures

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 11, 2000

CONTACT: Susan Henry, Consumer Liaison or Grace Cunningham, Consumer Education Coordinator

HARRISBURG - Natural gas prices are expected to increase substantially this winter across Pennsylvania, but there are steps that consumers can take to keep from being overwhelmed by high home heating bills, according to Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chairman John Quain and Consumer Advocate Sonny Popowsky. "Higher natural gas prices will be an economic hardship for many consumers, but it can be a disaster for consumers on fixed or lower incomes," Popowsky said. "If consumers don't take steps to protect themselves now, they may not be able to afford to stay warm, especially if this winter is colder than the past few years."

Quain explained that high natural gas prices in Pennsylvania are part of a national trend and parallel high petroleum prices which drove automotive gasoline toward $2.00 a gallon this summer. Natural gas prices nationally are predicted to be substantially higher than last year. "Consumers should expect these higher prices to last at least through the upcoming winter as we anticipate tight supply and strong demand at the national level," he stated. In response, Popowsky and Quain pointed to a number of actions consumers can take to lower bills and make payments more affordable.

Quain urged consumers to take advantage of opportunities to save money through efficiency measures and by improving the way they use energy. He cited several no or low cost options:

  • •Weatherstrip windows and doors to prevent drafts,
  • •Keep hot water use to a minimum by washing only full loads in washers and dishwashers,
  • •Apply for the federal Weatherization Assistance through your county government,
  • •Call your gas company about their low income efficiency programs, and
  • •Set hot water heaters at the lowest comfortable setting.

Popowsky alerted consumers to a number of bill payment options which can make high energy bills more affordable.

  • •Ask your gas company to place you on budget billing to spread your high winter bills over the entire year,
  • •If you qualify, apply for federal LIHEAP energy assistance through county assistance offices,
  • •If you cannot pay your entire bill, call your gas company to set up an affordable payment schedule, and
  • •Apply to your utility for information about Customer Assistance Programs and Low Income Usage Reduction Programs that help low-income, payment-troubled customers pay their bills or weatherize their homes.

Quain and Popowsky released the following toll-free phone numbers which consumers can call for more information about energy conservation tips or to request help in paying bills.

  • •Office of Consumer Advocate: 1-800-684-6560

for Information about budget billing and how to apply for low-income cash and weatherization assistance programs, and for a copy of a free energy savings guide.

  • •Public Utility Commission: 1-800-782-1110

for Information about affordable utility payment plans, special utility low-income referral programs, and the federal LIHEAP program.