How Do I Shop for Electricity in Pennsylvania?

How Do I Shop for Electricity in Pennsylvania?

Learn how to take advantage of your energy choice in the Keystone State!

Ever wanted to understand how you can take charge of your Pennsylvania electricity bills and enjoy long-term security instead of rates that fluctuate with the seasons? We’re here to help!

Instead of simply using your local utility company – also known as an Electric Distribution Company (EDC) – you can choose the type and price of your Pennsylvania electricity service. By visiting the PA Power Switch website, you can compare competing offers from Electric Generation Suppliers (EGS) operating in Pennsylvania. This often includes options for renewable energy, special offers, and services.

Sure, you can continue purchasing your electric service from your local utility. But since you pay the same transmission and delivery rates no matter who your provider is, energy choice in Pennsylvania gives you more opportunities to find the electricity service that fits your home’s energy and lifestyle needs.

How Pennsylvania Electricity Choice Works

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The Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) regulates the sale of retail power in Pennsylvania. It sets the rate for energy (both electricity and natural gas) and oversees the activities of both EDCs and EGSs. Rural electric cooperatives (and most utilities owned and operated by cities, boroughs, or townships) are not regulated by the Commission. However, the PUC does regulate the 11 EDCs serving the majority of the state:

  1. Citizens’ Electric Company
  2. Duquesne Light
  3. Met-Ed (owned by First Power)
  4. PECO Energy
  5. Penelec (owned by First Power)
  6. PennPower (owned by First Power)
  7. Pike County Light & Power Co
  8. PP&L
  9. UGI Utilities
  10. Wellsboro Electric Company
  11. West Penn Power (owned by First Power)

The Price to Compare

Each local electric utility has a “price to compare” to help consumers when they shop for a service provider. This rate is also the utility’s default service rate for customers who stay with the utility. It also includes charges for generation and transmission as well as taxes and other charges, including the utility’s charges for implementation of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS).

Rates vary monthly and must be approved by the PUC, which means the “price to compare” can be lower some months or higher in others.

In addition to buying and generating electricity, your EDC also maintains the distribution lines (“poles and wires”) to help ensure the grid’s capacity and reliability. This distribution charge is a separate charge on your electric bill, and that rate must also be approved by the PUC. All electricity customers pay a distribution charge, no matter if they have their energy service with their local utility or an EGS.

Standard Offer Program

The PUC required electric utilities to implement a standard offer for non-shopping customers. The Standard Offer is a voluntary option available to all residential and small business customers of EDCs to encourage people to take advantage of energy choice. Local utilities then refer interested customers to a randomly selected retail electric supplier participating in the Standard Offer program.

The Standard Offer includes a fixed-rate price, usually seven percent below the electric utility’s current Price to Compare for one full year with no cancellation or termination fees. A Standard Offer customer can cancel the agreement at any time.

After one year, you have three options:

  • Remain with their current supplier;
  • Switch to another competitive supplier; or
  • Return to default service offered by their EDC.

If you fail to respond with one of these options, you will automatically remain with the current supplier on a month-to-month basis without any early termination fees.

Electric Generation Suppliers (EGS)

So far this year, 713,081 Pennsylvania electric customers are currently signed up with an Electric Generation Supplier. Each EGS must be approved and licensed by the PUC to do business in Pennsylvania. Beyond that, their rates are not regulated by the PUC. Retail suppliers purchase electricity from the electricity wholesale market, allowing them more options for buying and pricing and offering great incentives.

Let’s Go Shopping!

How Do I Shop for Electricity in Pennsylvania?
“Look at these low rates!”

As a resident of Pennsylvania, you can buy energy from the following:

  • The local utility company (EDC) for your area;
  • Marketers — A PUC licensed company that buys and resells electricity to consumers, but typically does not own generating facilities (like Direct Energy);
  • Broker — A PUC licensed company that acts as an agent in the sale and purchases of electricity but never owns the electricity and typically does not own generating facilities; or
  • Aggregator — A PUC licensed entity that serves as an intermediary for a large number of consumers, bargaining on their behalf for electricity and related services.

Consumers can find the best competitive price and plans for their energy needs at the PUC’s PowerSwitch website.

  1. Start by entering your zip code. Depending on where you live, this will take you to a page that may ask you to select local utility.
  2. You will then see a summary page of the number of offers in your area with a comparison to the rate offered by your EDC.
  3. Clicking on the “Full Details” button takes you a page with offers from all available EGSs serving your area, the first being the price to compare.
  4. You can also change your monthly usage setting (default is 700 kWh) and list sorting preferences.

As you scroll down, each offer shows:

  • Supplier: The supplier’s name, linked to the supplier’s website, and a contact phone number.
  • Price per Kilowatt-Hour ($/kWh): In Pennsylvania, electricity is sold by the kilowatt-hour.
  • Estimated Price per Month: Based on the supplier’s price and the monthly usage (set at the top of the page).
  • Price Structure: Either a fixed- or variable-rate plans. Fixed-rate plans have a fixed price at a set contract term of service from three months up to 36 months. You may pay more when prices fall, but you’ll be protected when prices spike. Meanwhile, variable rates will change monthly depending wholesale prices, demand, and other factors. You might save money when prices fall, but you will pay more when prices spike.
  • Cancellation Fee: This is the amount you will need to pay to end your service agreement early. Generally, month-to-month rate plans won’t have one, while fixed rate plans will. Because this fee can be over $200, you may want to wait until your current agreement expires before switching providers. Keep this in mind when shopping.
  • Discount Available: Does the supplier offer discounts or incentives? These include things like movie tickets, airline discounts, gift certificates, smart thermostats, and others. Keep these in mind when you’re shopping because these can really sweeten a deal for you.
  • Monthly Fee: Some companies charge monthly services fees.
  • Introductory Price: If the plan has an introductory rate, special conditions may apply. Introductory rates are usually very low for the first month only. Afterwards, customers are put into a standard variable rate plan.
  • Renewable Energy: The percentage of renewable energy used in this plan. Some EGS plans display the Green-e Energy program logo. The Green-e Energy program is a voluntary consumer‐protection program that certifies renewable energy content offered by utilities and marketers.
  • Term End Date: This shows how long your price will last, ending with the meter read cycle.

Always ask questions before signing on an electricity agreement. Consider these three things when you shop for an EGS:

  • Price: Are their rates competitive? Are they offering teaser rates that go up after a month or two? How do their rates or plan compare with your local utility?
  • Services Offered: How’s the customer service? Are the incentives good? How do they rate?
  • Financial Stability: Even though the PUC standards for EGSs are high, how financially stable are they? How long have they been in the energy market?

For even more shopping tips, check out the PUC’s Frequently Asked Questions When Shopping for Electricity

Comparing Terms of Service

How Do I Shop for Electricity in Pennsylvania?
Yes, reading the contract and fine print can be boring, but it’s really important to understand the terms of your service agreement.

When comparing offers at the PowerSwitch site, be sure to read and compare each plan’s Terms of Service. These contractual details explain any additional fees, deposits, or other miscellaneous charges, such as paying by phone or online. You can also double-check the plan’s price structuring: is it a fixed plan, is it for new customers only, is it an introductory rate, etc. It also will explain what happens when your contract is about to expire.

Time to Sign Up

How Do I Shop for Electricity in Pennsylvania?
“Honey, we’ve been with the utility company for far too long. Time to switch!”

When you do decide it’s time to switch to a competitive EGS, simply call the company you like most or sign up through the supplier’s website. Your new supplier will notify your electric utility of the change. When your first bill arrives, examine it carefully. The PUC provides an excellent bill guide to help make your energy shopping experience go smoothly.

Right of Recession

So, you’ve made your choice and you’ve switched away from your local utility to a competitive EGS, but you’re not quite sure you made the right choice?

You have the right to change your mind or initially switch rescind the agreement with the supplier without penalty within three business days following your receipt of the agreement (this does not apply the renewal process). After three days, the change will be sent to your local utility to complete the process and they will send you a confirmation notice.

Your Rights as a Consumer

As an electricity customer, you have the right to:

  • Safe and reliable utility service;
  • A clear and concise bill;
  • Fair credit and deposit policies;
  • Know how your utility bill is calculated;
  • Check your utility bill for accuracy; and
  • Question or disagree with the utility company.

You also have the responsibility to:

  • Pay your bill on time;
  • Provide the utility access to its meter; and
  • Give the utility at least seven days advance notice before you move or wish to have service discontinued.

If you have problems with your service, contact you retail electricity supplier first. The Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) represents all Pennsylvania energy consumers. Contact them if your issue is not resolved to your satisfaction.

About 

Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.