Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hard winter, anticipated summer demand spark climbing electricity rates for NEPA

June 06. 2014 11:33PM
By Jon O’Connell joconnell@civitasmedia.com


The state Public Utility Commission reports more than 2 million Pennsylvanians have switched electricity suppliers using the website, www.papowerswitch.com.

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Electric utilities typically raise prices going into the summer months.

The state Public Utility Commission allows utility companies to adjust prices to consumers once quarterly, and starting June 1, all electric utilities serving the region raised rates, if just by a few dollars per month to customers.

The numbing frigid winter strained power generators all over the Northeast with high demand, and the utilities paid more during those months to avoid outages. The extra cost utilities paid in the winter is reflected in the extra weight added to electricity bills starting this month.

The electric companies also expect to see demand rise in the summer, when customers crank up the air conditioning to stay cool, justifying part of the increase.

PPL customers can expect to pay about 3 percent more, utility spokesman Brian Hay said.

Penelec customers should expect a rise of about 12 percent and UGI customers, around 9 percent.

So a Penelec customer paying $95 a month for electricity can expect to pay about $107 each month, at least until Sept. 1 when utilities again will review the cost to buy power and petition the PUC to adjust their prices, Penelec spokesman Scott Surgeoner said.

But proactive Penelec and PPL customers have another option to get around the rate hike.

“The important thing for customers to know is you don’t have to pay that rate if you shop,” Hay said.

The PUC created the website PAPowerSwitch.com where consumers may choose which electricity generation company has the lowest rates, Hay said.

The same utilities will continue to provide service, but consumers can often find better rates from a list of available suppliers.

The PUC reports more than 2 million customers statewide have used the website to find a cheaper electricity supplier.

The option to shop depends on location and supplier availability. Because UGI Utilities gets its electricity from sister company, UGI Energy Services, its residential customers and small business customers may not be able to shop.

Surgeoner could not predict if prices would rise again at the start of the fourth quarter, and he explained utilities buy electricity on a wholesale basis from a wide selection of suppliers that feed the PJM Mid-Atlantic power grid.

As required under state law, utilities cannot profit on the electricity they transmit. They profit from the cost of transmission and distribution.

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