News

Pa.'s lowest electric rates are in Mont Alto and Chambersburg

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Sep 26, 2017 12:16 PM
chambersburg_electric_utility.jpg

FILE PHOTO: Chambersburg borough linemen Ken Stillwagon, left, and Rob Robertsattach new power lines at Second and King streets. Photo courtesy of the Chambersburg Public Opinion.

(Chambersburg) -- The two boroughs in Franklin County that own their own electric systems have the lowest municipal rates in Pennsylvania.

Their rates also are at least 15 percent less than the rates charged by the investor-owned utilities in the state. Comparable rates were not available from member-owned electric cooperatives.

Chambersburg, the largest municipal electric system in the state, and Mont Alto, one of the smallest, have the lowest rates, according to a rate study for the Pennsylvania Municipal Electric Association.

Pennsylvania has 35 municipal systems. The U.S. has more than 2,000, including big-city systems in Seattle, Cleveland and Los Angeles.

Electric rates in the two local boroughs have dropped overall since 2012. The boroughs buy electricity from generating companies, but maintain their own poles and wires.

Mont Alto this year has the lowest rate $98.70 per 1,000 kilowatt hours. Chambersburg is second at $100.90 per 1,000 kwh.

West Penn Power's rate ($117.59 per 1,000 kwh) was the lowest among the seven utilities (averaging $141.26 per 1,000 kwh) under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. West Penn supplies power to most of Franklin County.

"While we are proud of our rates, we remain envious of Mont Alto, our friend and neighbor to the east," Chambersburg Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill said. "They are one of the smallest of the 35 systems, and their rates are lower than ours."

Chambersburg has about 10,200 power customers, including several industries.

Mont Alto provides electricity to 707 households plus a pizza shop, electric wire maker Sesco and part of the Penn State Mont Alto campus.

Mont Alto recently got a "very good" five-year contract with supplier AEPEP, according to Mont Alto Borough Secretary Patti Kocek.

"With getting a good rate we did not have to put the electric rates up," she said.

Mont Alto contracts with GW Electric, Greencastle, to maintain the borough's wires and poles.

Chambersburg no longer relies on a single power supplier, according to Stonehill.

"We have a portfolio of energy products that we buy from a variety of suppliers," he said. "This portfolio approach insulates the borough from the vagaries of the wholesale energy marketplace. Monitored closely by an internal 'power supply team,' our portfolio is structured to limit the need for rate increases over the next decade. We may need small adjustments from time to time, but we do not forecast any large swings in retail rates for the foreseeable future."

Chambersburg has its own Electric Department that maintains the power system. Once the only borough in the state generating electricity, Chambersburg has the only municipal system generating electricity for the town's baseload needs. Berlin Borough in Somerset County recently added an electric generator system to help during peak needs.

Chambersburg and Mont Alto elected officials set the electric rates, fees, rules and policies for their respective customers. Their non-profit systems are limited by state law to their municipal boundaries.

Utility Engineers PC in Drums prepared the rate study for the Pennsylvania Municipal Electric Association. The study examined the final retail cost of 1,000 kwh of electricity delivered to the customer.

"This is a different way of looking at rates than 'Price to Compare,' which is a statistic to measure electric rates, but is not the actual cost of delivered electricity," Stonehill said. "'Price to Compare' is a statistic based upon energy costs and does not contain all fees and charges."

Pennsylvanians buying electricity outside municipal and cooperative systems shop for electricity based on the 'Price to Compare,' the charge for electricity. Those utility customers also pay a fee for delivery, or the cost of maintaining the distribution system.

Chambersburg measures up "very well" when comparing the "Price to Compare," Stonehill said.

Top 5 municipal systems

The five Pennsylvania municipal power departments with the lowest electric rates per 1,000 kwh in 2017:

  • Mont Alto  $98.70
  • Chambersburg   $100.90
  • Summerhill  $105.00
  • Berlin   $106.48
  • Royalton  $121.32
  • Statewide avg. $143.52

Investor-owned utilities in Pa.

Rates (cost of delivered 1,000 kwh) for utilities regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in 2017:

  • West Penn Power   $117.54
  • Met-Ed  $129.18
  • Penn Power  $131.02
  • PPL  $148.56
  • Pennsylvania Electric  $150.21
  • Duquesne  $154.92
  • PECO  $157.39
  • Statewide avg.  $141.26

Source: Utility Engineers

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and Public Opinion Online.

Published in News

Tagged under , , , , , , , , , ,

back to top

Give Now

Estate Planning

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Smart Talk

National Edward R. Murrow Awards

DuPont Columbia Awards

Support Local Journalism

Latest News from NPR

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »