PUC event

Rick Shrum/Observer-Reporter

Mary Sally, director of programs for Dollar Energy Fund, speaks during a program Wednesday at Hilton Garden Inn at Southpointe.

On an unrealistically sweltering October morning, Colleen Mackin focused on the polar opposite – emphasis on polar.

Mackin, an energy efficiency associate for Duquesne Light Co., was one of the speakers Wednesday at a consumer-education program for consumers with limited incomes or special needs. Weatherization was her topic, but she could have been talking for others who stepped to the mic when she summarized her firm’s mission.

“Our goals for you are less consumption, lower bills, becoming educated and living in a comfortable, safe home.”

She was one of eight panelists, from eight organizations, who made presentations during a morning session of a “Be Utility Wise” program at the Hilton Garden Inn at Southpointe. It was the third of a series of eight sessions the state Public Utility Commission will conduct across Pennsylvania this fall, and the only one scheduled for Southwestern Pennsylvania.

A massive audience of 250 gathered at the Cecil Township hotel for an event featuring afternoon and evening sessions.

This annual autumnal program, according to the PUC, is designed to promote “consumer awareness, utility education, life management skills and financial literacy.”

Mackin discussed the Weatherization program, known as Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP). It provides energy-saving ideas to qualifying households to help cut utility bills and/or usage.

“Fifteen gas and electric companies in Pennsylvania use LIURP,” Mackin said. Residents can be eligible if their household income is at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines for 2019-2020.

Among other topics, panelists also addressed the Customer Assistance Program (CAP), CARES (Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation), LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) and the Dollar Energy Fund.

LIHEAP grants, which are administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development, range from $200 to $1,000, said Sandra Zelesnik, program director for the state Department of Human Services. For interested consumers, the LIHEAP grant season will open Nov. 1 and close April 10.

The grant season opened Oct. 1 for the Dollar Energy Hardship Fund program.

Visit http://www.puc.state.pa.us for more information.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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