By Mike DeNardo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — The number of Pennsylvania households without heat this winter is higher than last year, according to the state’s Public Utility Commission.

The annual Cold Weather Survey shows 23,213 households without electric or gas heat this season, compared to 19,653 in Pennsylvania last year.

PGW has the highest total in the state: more than 10,000 customers have had their natural gas shut off.  PUC spokeswoman Denise McCracken says there are utility aid programs available not only for low-income residents but for those living with someone seriously ill, or those with a protection-from-abuse order.

“With the winter months upon us, we know it’s very, very critical that our consumers without heat-related utility service learn about their options for reconnecting,” she notes.

McCracken didn’t have an explanation for why more homes had their utilities shut off so far this winter compared to last.