By: Kurt Bresswein |
Blame it on the polar vortex.
Effective Sunday, Metropolitan Edison customers will see electricity generation rates spike 25.4 percent.
Overall, the company’s electric bills — of which generation is one part — are rising 16 percent, from $93 to nearly $108 a month for the average residential consumer using 750 kilowatt-hours a month, said Met-Ed spokesman Scott Surgeoner.
The reason is two-fold: Demand during the summer, when prices normally rise, is one factor, and the utility purchased some of the electricity for the upcoming three-month period “during the January polar vortex, when prices were extremely high,” he said.
The rate adjustment taking effect Sunday is known as a price to compare, and it allows electricity customers to shop for cheaper electricity through competitive suppliers. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission this week unveiled an updated website to help with comparing providers, with an eye toward avoiding variable-rate spikes that stung consumers last winter.
Rate adjustments are made quarterly, on the first of June, September, December and March.
Met-Ed’s spike is not the steepest in Pennsylvania. Rates at West Penn Power — owned, like Met-Ed, by FirstEnergy — are increasing about 50 percent, also due largely to the cold winter, commission spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.
“It’s all about timing and when you made the purchases on the wholesale market,” she said.
New Jersey electricity adjustments operate on a different timetable but, coincidentally, also change Sunday for the four companies regulated by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. FirstEnergy’s JCP&L is lowering rates by about 1.7 percent, or $1.56 a month for the average customer using 650 kilowatt-hours, said Ron Morano, spokesman for the utility.
PPL Electric Utilities on Sunday is raising residential rates by 3.2 percent for electricity generation, from 8.754 to 9.036 cents per kilowatt-hour. The utility used a series of auctions over the past several months to buy electricity for customers in its territory who choose not to shop for an alternative generation company, spokesman Paul Wirth said.
“We have a series of procurements at various times to insulate customers from price swings in the wholesale market,” he said.
PPL does not profit on generation, passing the cost to consumers at no markup, Wirth said. That’s the case for shopping around, he said.
“In fact, we encourage customers to shop and to switch,” he said. “I shop. Many PPL employees shop because why would you want to pay more for electricity than you have to?”
There is risk involved, including the possibility of variable-rate plans spiking month to month. Easton resident Gary DiPasquale told regulators at a Palmer Township forum hosted in March by Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton/Lehigh/Monroe, that his bill rose from about $153 in February to $646 in March.
The Public Utility Commission this week announced updates to papowerswitch.com, its website designed to assist with shopping for electricity generation. A lot of them are the result of customer complaints and other feedback over concerns about variable-rate changes last winter, said Kocher, the commission spokeswoman.
New features include color coding to differentiate between plans offering fixed and variable rates and explanatory videos.
SWITCH-HITTING FOR POWER
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission tracks the number of Pennsylvania’s 5.67 million customers of the state’s nine regulated electric utilities as of Feb. 1, 2013, who have gone to a competitive supplier.
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