Is Your Electricity Supplier Really the Best?
Pennsylvania electricity customers have heard how an Erie woman was recently billed $284 billion dollars by Penelec for her December electric service.
Not so well known is that Penelec’s parent company, First Energy, conducted an investigation on its own. It maintains that there’s no evidence of the bill nor audio recordings of any customer service calls about it in spite of photos supplied to the Erie Times-News.
Sheesh! After a response like that, there’s little wonder why some homeowners have been asking, “Should I switch PA electric suppliers?”
When It’s Time To Shop For An Electricity Supplier
Even though the electricity markets have been deregulated in Pennsylvania for more than a decade, some people still fall into the old habit of thinking that they don’t have the power to choose an electricity supplier and that it’s easier just to settle for what ever deal their local utility offers.
Not only can you choose your own electricity provider but you have the right to dump ‘em for any reason at all. And that can be high rates, wretched customers service, hidden fees, or even an ugly logo. In Pennsylvania’s deregulated electricity market, electricity suppliers (and local utilities with their “price to beat”) are supposed to compete for your business. If your electricity supplier can’t meet your energy needs or they just plain suck, go find another company and switch.
And even if you are already signed up with the best electricity provider in the entire state, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t look around to see what other plans suppliers are offering. After all, it’s your money.
How Do I Know When to Switch?
Know Your Usage— First, think about what your needs are. That includes things like knowing the rough average amount electricity you use each month. For example, do you use 800 kWh, 1,000 kWh, or 2,000 kWh per month? An easy way to find out is to review your past electricity bills for the past year. Most providers already provide some sort of electricity usage profile information either through your on-line account or printed on your monthly statement.
If you don’t have that information, you can still estimate your usage by calculating your total electricity usage in kWh for an average day and then multiplying that by 30 days. What’s that look like? Say we add up the daily 24 hour usage for all our appliances (the wattage used by refrigerator, washer, dryer, water heater, TV, etc for the amount of time it’s in use). Let’s we figure out that we use 28,030 watt/hours per day, or 28.03 kWh/day. Multiply that by thirty and you get 841 kWh per month (and by happy convenience is the exact average monthly electricity consumption for PA residences in 2016).
Know your current rate— Your electric bill is divided into two parts:
- There’s the distribution charge. This is what the local utility (or EDU) charges for delivering the electricity to your home through the local grid. Those poles and wires need to be maintained and if there’s a power failure, they’re the folks to call. Everyone pays the same rate for the distribution charge. IF an EDU wants to change the distribution charge, it must be approved by the PA PUC. The distribution charge you pay is based on the amount of electricity you use per month.
- The generation charge which is the price of the electricity (which includes long distance transmission costs). Local utilities don’t pay the same amount for electricity as competitive electricity providers. Local utilities buy their electric supplies at auctions every 6 months and the rate they pay changes (usually goes up) twice a year. Competitive electricity providers constantly compete to get the best price on their supply from the wholesale markets and directly from generators. This lets them better manage their finances so they can keep their prices lower than their competition.
Compare incentives or rewards— Generally, EDUs don’t have incentives or rewards for their standard offer customers. However, several electricity suppliers do offer incentives or rewards which include movie tickets, gift cards, dining rewards, airline discounts, and even free electricity. All of these add value to their service plans that makes them seriously worth considering.
Early Termination Fee in your current plan?— If your current plan has an Early Termination Fee (ETF), you’ll need to weigh the amount of that fee for ending your agreement early versus the amount you might save by signing on to a new plan. If you’re two months into a brand spanking new 36 month fixed rate with a $300 ETF and just found a much lower rate plan with incentives, it might be worth it to pay the fee and switch. It also depends on your circumstances, so you’ll want to calculate carefully how much you spend by staying with a plan against how much you’ll likely spend by switching.
Compare rates & reviews— Lastly, you’ll want to take your usage information and your current rate and compare it with offers from other electricity suppliers. You’ll also want to learn more about the companies and how well they treat their customers. While the PA PUC does track customer complaints, these don’t tell you who important things like which company provides “meh” customer service versus those that have great customer service or which ones have lots of fees versus those that don’t. To find out important information like that, you’ll want to check out our web site, https://www.paenergyratings.com, and read what customers just like yourself have to say about their experiences with different providers.
In the end, you might find plenty of reasons to stay with your current provider. Or you just might find 284 billion reasons to switch!