The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission took some significant actions at its public meeting Thursday, issuing final implementation orders for two key programs.
One order finalizes procedures for allowing electricity, gas, water and sewer utilities to add surcharges for infrastructure improvements to their bills. Beginning next year, utilities can petition the PUC to add those charges, known as distribution system improvement charges or DSICs.
Previously, utilities could raise additional revenue only by applying for a rate hike, a cumbersome process that typically lasted nine months and cost $1 million, PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said. The DSIC application process will be about one-10th the time and cost, she said.
The change comes as a result of Act 11 of 2012, signed in February by Gov. Tom Corbett.
The new system should make it much easier for utilities to fund infrastructure projects, PUC Chairman Robert Powelson said in a statement.
"Act 11 gives us the mechanisms to confront our infrastructure challenges now and do so across the board – for gas, electricity, water and wastewater," he said.
The other order issued by the PUC concerns Act 129 of 2008, which calls on electric utilities to encourage energy conservation and efficiency among their customers. Phase 1 of that effort ends next May; the order sets the rules for Phase 2, which runs from June 2013 to May 2016.
The order gives each utility a three-year target for reducing electricity consumption compared with current forecasts. PECO has the biggest target, a 2.9 percent reduction, and West Penn Power has the smallest, 1.6 percent. The state's five other major utilities have targets ranging from 2.0 to 2.3 percent.
The plan was finalized after input from utilities, consumer advocacy groups and other stakeholders, and it builds on the foundation established by Phase 1, PUC spokeswoman Denise McCracken said.
"Phase 1 has been successful at reducing energy consumption," she said.