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Thanks to deregulation, Pennsylvania consumers who buy their electricity from PECO Energy Co., the state’s largest utility, can start reducing their monthly bill costs if they switch to an alternative retail electric company, according to Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate Sonny Popowsky.

About 1.6 million Pennsylvanians gained the power to choose which energy provider they buy electricity from when the last remaining electricity generation rate caps for the state’s last four rate-capped utilities, including PECO, expired Jan. 1. Some consumers, however, have been confused and uncertain about what electric deregulation means for them.

In March, state Rep. Greg Vitali, D–Delaware, organized a seminar to talk to consumers and answer questions about deregulation and electric choice. The seminar included former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger, PECO representative Liz Finocchio, and Popowski, whose Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate was established in 1976 to represent the state’s consumers in matters involving utilities.

At the seminar, Popowski told attendees that about 200,000 PECO customers had already switched to a retail electric company in order to get lower electric rates and save money.

“We think that a typical PECO customer who shops can save about $10 a month or more,” said Popowsky. “That adds up, $120 over the course of 12 months, and … you won’t even notice the difference, other than the fact that you’re getting a lower bill.”

Popowsky’s estimation falls in line with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which says that consumers might see significant savings by switching to a retail electric company because electricity generation costs are the most expensive part of an average electric bill.

“In some areas, the electric supplier’s rate is as much as 10 percent cheaper than the default service price offered by the utility,” the PUC states on its website.

Deregulation Grants the Power to Choose Without Sacrificing Convenience

Consumers won’t see a change in service or support if they switch to a retail electric company because PECO remains responsible for maintaining and fixing all of the equipment used for distribution, such as power lines, poles, and transformers, and for responding to emergencies and outages. Additionally, consumers who switch will still get just one electric bill from PECO, regardless of which energy provider they choose.

Although the utility’s rate for the rest of the summer hasn’t been determined, locking in a fixed rate with a retail electric company would provide cost certainty for consumers who are concerned that electric rates will continue to go higher.

Sources

“Shopping for Electricity Could Fuel SavingsThe Delaware County Daily Times, March 15, 2011.

“Seminar on Electric Choice,” Office of Pennsylvania State Rep. Greg Vitali press release, Feb. 18, 2011.

PA Power Switch website, “How Switching Power Can Help

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