PITTSBURGH, Nov. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today approved an agreement that paves the way for development of a comprehensive energy efficiency program for western Pennsylvania natural gas customers. The agreement was reached as part of a legal settlement and is a condition of approval for Peoples Natural Gas Company (Peoples) to merge with portions of Equitable Gas Companies (Equitable), two large natural gas distribution companies operating in western Pennsylvania and serving almost 700,000 total customers.
"Energy efficiency is the cleanest form of energy available," noted Cindy Dunn, president and CEO of PennFuture. "Pennsylvania law requires electric distribution companies to invest in energy efficiency programs to benefit consumers, but it does not require the same of gas companies. This landmark agreement between Peoples and PennFuture will bring greater energy efficiency to western Pennsylvania. PennFuture looks forward to working with the company over the next several years to develop a robust natural gas efficiency program that will benefit its customers and Pennsylvania's environment."
Natural gas energy efficiency programs typically include financial incentives to help customers understand and improve the energy performance of their homes and businesses, such as by conducting energy assessments and replacing inefficient equipment.
"We are excited about the opportunity to realize all of the benefits parties saw in putting these two overlapping utilities together," said Morgan O'Brien, president and CEO of Peoples Natural Gas. "Our goal is to exceed those benefits for customers and become the most efficient and safest energy provider possible. We also see this as a real opportunity to be an industry leader in educating customers in being responsible in how they use energy, whether it's heating their homes or powering their businesses."
PennFuture intervened in the merger proceeding in an effort to require Peoples to establish a natural gas energy efficiency program for families and businesses. As part of the overall settlement, Peoples agreed to use shareholder funds to develop an energy efficiency and conservation plan for all customer classes, and eventually petition the PUC to approve implementation of the plan. Peoples also committed to work with stakeholders through every step of the process. Peoples agreed to submit the plan to the commission for final approval, before the 2017 anticipated start date.
PennFuture is grateful to John J. Plunkett of the Green Energy Economics Group, Paul Chemick of Resource Insight, Inc., and the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance for their expertise and assistance in securing this important success, moving Pennsylvania one step closer to a clean energy future.
PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998 with offices in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre. PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.
The Philadelphia Inquirer called PennFuture the "state's leading environmental advocacy organization;" the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named the organization "one of the 10 most influential groups on the issue of natural gas drilling;" and StateImpact Pennsylvania, an online collaboration of NPR stations across the state, called PennFuture "the commonwealth's main environmental advocate."