The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is launching a comprehensive review of programs to support low-income utility customers, a sensitive issue because the costs of such "universal services" programs are inevitably borne by all customers.

The PUC voted Thursday to launch the review, which is to include a report from the commission's Law Bureau and suggestions from "stakeholders representing all interests, from low-income customers to consumer interest advocates to utilities, to ensure any outcomes are cost-effective and in the public interest."

The motion to launch the review was sponsored by Commissioners David W. Sweet and Andrew G. Place, who in March initiated a more narrowly focused one-year study on whether the state's low-income customers may be paying too much of their household incomes on utility bills. The March measure passed by a 3-2 vote. A more harmonious PUC approved Thursday's resolution unanimously.

State law requires electric and natural-gas utilities to offer universal service and energy-conservation programs to ensure utility services are affordable.