Peco: Home shutoffs drop; business cuts soar

Peco Energy Co.'s new shut-off report shows a big drop in the number of people whose gas or electric it turned off in October vs. last year. The total dropped below 8,000, vs. 19,000 a year earlier.

Spokesman Ben Armstrong says Peco planned for the drop. It follows last Spring's spike in shut-offs - 34,000 through April, up from 16,000 a year earlier - which Peco attributed at the time to a tougher shutoff warning policy: By cutting off late-payers and non-payers during air-conditioning season, Peco ensured they'll need to raise less cash to get reconnected again in time for heating season.

Year-to-date, total Peco residential shut-offs have fallen, to around 74,000, from 78,000. "The question now is whether the decrease in terminations in October and November will be sufficiently large to cancel out the huge increases in the earlier part of the year," Phil Bertocci, utility lawyer for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.

By contrast, Peco has shut off a lot more commercial customers so far this year - 4,553 through Nov. 13 - vs last year - 1,757. That includes 235 during October, up from 145 a year earlier. Armstrong says that's at least "partially due to economic conditions." He added, "We are seeing businesses falling farther and farther behind on their payments."