Pennsylvania electric generation costs increasing up to 45% on June 1

Pennsylvania regulators are warning consumers that most utilities will be increasing their prices for electric generation on June 1.

Energy supply costs will increase between 6% and 45% across the state for consumers who aren’t under contract with a supplier, according to the state’s Public Utility Commission.

Most electric utilities in Pennsylvania reset rates on June 1 and December 1, commission spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said. First Energy, which includes West Penn Power and Penn Power, does so quarterly.

West Penn Power’s “price to compare” will increase by about 45%, from 5.667 cents to 8.198 cents per kilowatt hour.

For the typical West Penn customer using 750 kilowatt hours per month, the bill would increase by about 25%, from $74.91 to $93.89, spokesman Todd Meyers said.

Penn Power customers will see a nearly 23% increase, from 7.082 cents to 8.694 cents per kilowatt hour.

For a typical Penn Power residential customer using 750 kilowatt hours per month, the total bill would increase by about 12%, from $103.12 to $115.21, Meyers said.

For both, Meyers said about half of the bill is for the electricity itself, while half is the charge to deliver it.

Duquesne Light is among several utilities for which price changes are still being calculated but are expected to rise, according to the commission. Final prices will be available later in May.

According to the commission, higher wholesale market prices for electricity are being caused mostly by shifts in supply and demand for natural gas.

“The global energy market has been extremely volatile since the fall of last year,” Hagen-Frederiksen said. “There continues to be an upward movement in prices, and not just for electricity. Every form of energy is seeing an upward push in prices.”

By law, utilities can’t make a profit on electric generation. The cost is passed through to customers. The “price to compare” averages 40% to 60% of a customer’s total utility bill.

The commission does not regulate prices for the generation part of electric bills. Generation prices are separate from the regulated rates that utilities charge for delivering electricity to homes and businesses.

How to save

There are things consumers can do to save money, and that includes shopping for a supplier, Hagen-Frederiksen said.

The commission is encouraging consumers to review their electric bills to understand the rates they will be paying and explore its electric shopping website, papowerswitch.com.

In most parts of the state, consumers can choose their electric supplier.

“If you can find a good deal now and you want to go into the competitive electric market and remain diligent, you can probably save some money,” said Patrick Cicero, acting consumer advocate with the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate.

The office is an independent agency that is part of the state Office of Attorney General and represents consumers before the PUC, Cicero said.

To help consumers, the office provides an electric shopping guide on its website. It can be mailed upon request; the office can be reached at 717-783-5048 and by email at consumer@paoca.org.

Shopping for electric isn’t difficult, but consumers have to stay on top of it, Cicero said.

“Consumers need to be careful about the energy marketing that’s out there,” he said. “There are going to be deals and offers that may save consumers money. Our office’s view is that folks need to shop smart. They need to know what it is they are shopping for.”

The commission said consumers not shopping for a supplier might want to look into their utility’s Standard Offer Program. It gives customers the option of receiving service from a competitive supplier at a fixed price that is 7% below the utility’s current price to compare.

If available, consumers who sign up for that program before prices increase June 1 could realize a substantial savings, Hagen-Frederiksen said.

“It was designed as a way for consumers who hadn’t shopped or weren’t interested in doing a lot of comparison shopping to dip their toes into the shopping market,” he said.

Advantages of the program are that it’s good for a year with no early termination or cancellation fees, Cicero said.

But he cautioned that because of uncertainly in the wholesale markets, a supplier may not be able to honor a rate for a full 12 months, Cicero said. If that happens, customers would return to their utility’s default service rate.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, brittmeyer@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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