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June 28, 2008 – Comments (0) | RELATED TICKERS: AUY , FSLR , UUP

 Utilities Being Cut Off In Record Numbers for Families Who Can’t Afford To Pay Bills
As skyrocketing food and gasoline prices strain budgets, utilities are disconnecting many more customers who fall behind on their bills, and even moderate-income households are getting zapped. Electricity and natural gas shutoffs are up at least 15% in several states compared with last year. Totals for some utilities have more than doubled. "We're seeing a record number of shutoffs," says Mark Wolfe, head of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association, which represents programs that subsidize energy bills. An NEADA survey this month shows 8% of four-member households earning $33,500 to $55,500 have had their power turned off for non-payment. "It's hitting people in the suburbs with two cars and two kids," Wolfe says. The disconnects are rising as warm-weather power bills increase, some state moratoriums on winter shutoffs expire, and rates are climbing in many states.In Pennsylvania, PPL Electric Utilities disconnected 7,054 customers through April this year, up 168% over the same 2007 period. Duke Energy in North Carolina is averaging about 11,000 shutoffs a month, 14% above last year. That's an annualized rate equal to nearly 10% of its 1.4 million residential customers. Disconnects are up 27% for Peoples Gas in Chicago, 14% for Southern California Edison and 56% for Detroit Edison, according to utilities or regulators. In Michigan, where home foreclosures are soaring and the unemployment rate is the USA's highest, more than one in five Detroit Edison customers were behind in their electric bills in May

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