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How to protect yourself from impending electric utility rate hike

PPL customers could see a 38% increase while Met-ED customers will see a 16% rate hike.

  • By Hayden Mitman/ WLVR
The coal-fired Cheswick Generating Station produces electricity northeast of Pittsburgh.

The coal-fired Cheswick Generating Station produces electricity northeast of Pittsburgh.

The cost of your electric utility bill is set to increase come June and customers of PPL Corp. could be saddled with some of the highest rate increases of the state.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania residents can choose an alternative energy supplier and save money if they shop around.

But the process can be complicated.

On June 1, PPL customers throughout the region could see electric utility bills increase by as much as 38%.

Customers of Metropolitan Edison Co. will see a 16% rate hike.

Patrick Cicero, Pennsylvania’s Consumer Advocate, said most customers would benefit by opting into their utility’s Standard Offer Program.

“That’s a program that offers 7% off the utility’s default service price at the time you enroll. So, you get 7% off at the time you enroll and you’re then signed up for a 12-month fixed rate contract with an alternate supplier,” he said.

This locks in the rate, he said, protecting customers from the widely varying cost of energy.

As explained by Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, press secretary at Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, there are two elements of the bill that impact customers.

The first is a distribution charge that goes to your local utility to pay for the infrastructure that brings electricity to your home.

That part you can’t change.

But, Hagen-Frederiksen said residents have more flexibility with the second element,

the generation charge.

“That’s the part of your bill for the actual kilowatts of electricity that you use. That’s what you can shop for. So, you can’t change your utility, but you can shop for who your supplier is,” Hage-Frederiksen said.

Both men noted that the process of finding an alternative supplier can be complicated.

To help, the PUC has a website, PAPowerSwitch.com, that allows residents to compare utility providers and try to find a better deal.

It opens the door to a process that’s not for the faint of heart.

For an Allentown resident, for example, there are more than 100 offers for an alternative supplier.

And, Consumer Advocate Cicero warned you’ll need to sort offers on that site carefully because not all of them benefit local residents.

“You have to make sure you sort, on the side, a fixed rate, no monthly fee, no early termination fee, if you want to get an actual apples-to-apples comparison for PPL’s offer. And, when you do that, you’ll see there’s not anyone that’s going to give you very much of a good deal,” he said.

Overall, residents essentially have three options: opt into your provider’s Standard Offer Program, shop around with the help of PAPowerSwitch.com or simply do nothing and pay a higher rate once June 1 rolls around.

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