Highlights Opportunities to Increase Energy Efficiency, Compare Pricing & Options for Electric Generation and Seek Help Through #CallUtilitiesNow
With January utility bills reflecting higher energy costs and increased cold weather energy usage for many consumers, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is reminding electric customers that the start of the new year is a good time to explore ways to conserve energy and save – including comparing prices for electric generation, evaluating competitive supplier offers and looking at competitive market options such as time-of-use and renewable energy products.
Additionally, the PUC continues to underscore the importance of consumers, businesses and utilities working together during this unprecedented time – and encouraging struggling consumers to #CallUtilitiesNow to discuss utility assistance programs with their utilities.
Managing Energy Usage
Energy usage is a key factor in the size of winter energy bills, and there are many ways that consumers can control that usage. Energy saving tips include:
- Pay attention to the thermostat – Every degree you raise or lower the temperature could impact energy costs by up to 3%. Also, consider a programmable thermostat to automatically lower temperatures at night or while you are away from home.
- Keep furnaces and ducts clean – Regular furnace maintenance along with clean filters and ducts help ensure efficient operation of your heating system.
- Winterize your home – Adding insulation, installing storm windows and doors, and sealing cracks and air leaks can help you stay warmer and use less energy.
- Check your hot water heater – Temperatures over 120 degrees can be a major power drain.
- Run full loads – Waiting for full loads in washers and dishwashers can help reduce the use of hot water and limit the amount of energy needed to heat that water.
The PUC’s electric shopping website PAPowerSwitch.com has interactive sections with more easy consumer tips for saving energy.
Shopping with Competitive Electric Generation Suppliers
In most areas of Pennsylvania, consumers can choose who supplies their electricity, based on price or other factors, such as renewable energy.
Most Pennsylvania regulated electric utilities recently adjusted the price they charge for the generation portion of customers’ bills for non-shopping customers, also known as the “Price to Compare” (PTC). The PTC averages 40% to 60% of the customer’s total utility bill. However, this percent varies by utility and by the level of individual customer usage.
The PUC notes that the Commission does not regulate prices for the generation portion of electric bills. For those customers that do not shop, electric utilities obtain default generation service using a procurement process overseen by the PUC – the electric utility in effect “shops” for the customer. Generation prices are separate from the closely regulated rates that utilities charge for their distribution services – the delivery of electricity to homes and businesses.
Due to year-end changes in transmission rates, the Commission also highlighted that on January 1st some regulated utilities again adjusted their “Price to Compare” (PTC) on electric generation costs, including the following:
- Citizens’ Electric, down from 7.9476 cents to 7.8005 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh);
- PPL, down from 9.502 cents to 8.941 cents per kWh; and
- Wellsboro Electric, up from 7.5051 cents to 7.7569 cents per kWh.
As another alternative for default service customers not participating in the competitive electricity market, Pennsylvania’s regulated utilities offer a voluntary Standard Offer Program (Standard Offer) – providing those customers with the option of receiving service from a competitive supplier at a fixed-price that is 7% below the utility’s current PTC. The Standard Offer price is fixed for one year and can be canceled by the customer at any time with no early cancellation or termination fees.
PAPowerSwitch.com – Enhanced Time of Use Information
The PUC’s PAPowerSwitch.com(PAPowerSwitch) energy shopping website provides consumers and small businesses with valuable information on how to shop for electric supply services – enabling consumers to quickly compare offers from competitive suppliers against the default service rate from their local utility and learn more on switching to a competitive supplier, or returning to default service, should they choose.
The Commission recently enhanced PAPowerswitch with updated educational webpages for time-of-use (TOU) products and renewable energy standards. TOU is a rate structure that shifts the cost of electricity to certain designated “peak hours” for customers. PAPowerSwitch users can now access up-to-date information and Frequently Asked Questions on TOU products, rates and billing. In the meantime, the PUC encourages consumers interested in TOU products to contact their utility on TOU availability.
#CallUtilitiesNow to Explore Customer Assistance Programs
For consumers struggling with paying utility bills, the PUC continues to encourage them to contact their utilities. Public utilities are the first and most direct mechanisms to link struggling households with much-needed assistance – whether those financial difficulties are related to the COVID pandemic, the ongoing state and national recovery or other challenging circumstances. The PUC emphasized that direct conversations between customers and utilities are the best “first step.”
Utilities understand the assistance programs available in their communities for income-qualified consumers – including utility-run Customer Assistance Programs, national programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and various hardship fund programs operated by utilities and non-profit organizations. Utilities also can help enroll consumers in assistance programs, guide them to other available resources and discuss new payment plan options to address overdue balances and help consumers move forward.
About the PUC
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility. “Like” Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Facebook for easy access to information on utility issues.