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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Smart Talk Friday is a fast-paced program featuring thoughtful and engaging conversations about the politics, policy and people who are shaping Pennsylvania’s future. Host Scott LaMar and WITF Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Wilson invite your multimedia interaction before, during and after the program.


Hosts: Scott LaMar and Mary Wilson

Smart Talk Friday: Electric bill shock, funeral rules

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Mar 6, 2014 4:35 PM

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Have you received your electric bill this month?  Many Pennsylvania home and business owners who have are not happy with what they’ve seen.

According to the state Attorney General’s office, some bills are 400% higher than this time last year. 

The explanation seems to be that those customers agreed to variable rate contracts with electric suppliers and the prolonged cold weather increased demand and price.

On Smart Talk Friday, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Pam Witmer answers questions about the spikes and if anything can be done to bring them under control.

Also, a court ruling will keep funeral homes from serving food.  That’s what’s gotten all the attention but there’s much more to it than food.

Smart Talk Friday hears from the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association.

Also, Pennsylvania’s 333rd birthday celebration and the politics of the week.

It’s all on Smart Talk Friday.

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Comments: 10

  • Bob Nunn img 2014-03-07 09:25

    It's clear that these people did not learn from the housing crisis, much of which was caused by variable interest mortgages.

    Anytime you get involved with variable anything there's a chance that you'll pay much more in the future.

  • Arthur K Mann img 2014-03-07 09:27

    you need to talk about the real problem with the spike in rate.

    The Pennsylvania New Jersey Maryland grid PJM experienced a big spike in electrical demand. Normally, users on the grid are called on to drop demand within a 15 minute interval. That usually drops demand down to a level that the grid can handle. This latest spike that caused the increase in rates is a suspicious anomaly.

    This winter spike was actually less than a hot summer day's demand. Normally those spikes are contained within 15 minutes.

    This year, however, 20% of the PJM grid's capacity was taken off line and stayed off line for almost a week causing grid prices to stay around $0.25 per KWH instead of $0.05, the usual price.

  • Arthur K Mann img 2014-03-07 09:32

    One more thing. Powergenerating plants benefit from an oddball bidding system whereby no matter what you bid in the daily auction you get what is called the clearing price for the market.

    So, if you bid five cents per kilowatt hour and the current price was $.25 per kilowatt hour, you received the $.25 price.

    Therefore, every generator in the PJM grid benefited greatly when those power plants were taken off line.

  • Arthur K Mann img 2014-03-07 09:42

    Because all the power generators received the $.25 per kilowatt hour power rate, they made a financial windfall during this time.

    Therefore, they had every incentive to keep those powerplants off-line and the grid rate High. Cause, remember, power generators don't get the price per kilowatt hour that they bid, they get what is called the clearing price.

    So, every generator during this time, received the $.25 per hour rate instead of the five cents per hour that they probably bid.

    So, the question is, why did that much capacity drop off line and stay off line?

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-03-07 10:16

    Jim writes:
    The variable rate from the company went from 8 cents/KWH to 28.6/KWH. That’s just simply price gouging. The company used very deceptive telephone practices and hard sell techniques. They don’t even have a real office in Pennsylvania, just a letter box in Linglestown.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-03-07 10:19

    Thomas writes:
    Just a comment, I think the idea of serving food at a funeral home is horrible. With the idea that you are serving food in a room that is right next to a room that could be holding decomposing bodies is just unsanitary.

    Let the luncheon be served at the church or home. not in a funeral home.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-03-07 10:20

    Thomas says:
    I did switch, my electric bill right now is down to 120$ from 140$ per month (I am total electric)

    BUT MY QUESTION IS THIS why all the change? The electric companies for the last 120 years, produced, and sold their electric to the customers, what was the reason for all this. If there was not an issue why change the way electric was sold. Also remember Enron in california???? This issue sounds like it.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-03-07 10:20

    Ron comments:
    The problem isn’t the “variable rate”. The variable rate in it’s pure form is the best way to buy electricity.
    The problem is the unscrupulous companies that use the variable rate agreement to gouge their customers for as long as they will tolerate this. This isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s been going on since the deregulation began.
    The customer needs to be protected from intentional gouging.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-03-07 10:30

    Gary Schreckengost we should have never deregulated. another republican mistaff to support the upper against the lower.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-03-07 10:35

    On a related topic...the Allentown Morning Call is reporting that Sen. Bob Mensch is dropping his legislation that would have allowed electric suppliers to bid on customers who who selected a power supplier. http://www.mcall.com/business/mc-mensch-drops-default-electricity-bill-20140306,0,3905757.story

    Here's a Smart Talk program devoted to the issue last month: http://www.witf.org/smart-talk/2014/02/smart-talk-auctioning-off-electric-customers-10-years-of-facebook.php

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