The extended cold during the first two months of this year drove up gas demand 17% in Philadelphia-based PECO's service territory in southeastern Pennsylvania, the utility company said Friday. PECO said it has seen almost 400 more heating degree-days so far this winter as compared to last winter.

The Exelon subsidiary, which serves 480,000 gas customers in the state, said its gas throughput averaged 9.6 MMcf/d in January and more than 12 MMcf/d in February. PECO, reported its fourth highest daily gas sendout on Feb. 5 because of the extremely cold temperatures and customer growth. The company, which also services 1.6 million power customers in the state, also had record winter peak power demand on that day.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recently announced plans to expand heating assistance for low and fixed income customers this winter. The application deadline for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was extended to March 30, and the amount available for crisis grants was increased from $300 to $400. LIHEAP recipients who have already received $300 in crisis benefits can now apply for an additional $100 if they experience another home heating emergency. Crisis grants are one-time cash payments that assist households that have heating problems or face the loss of utility service because of past-due bills.

PECO also offers discounted electric and gas rates under its CAP program, which has the largest enrollment of any utility in the state with more than 112,000 households participating.

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