As you shop, you’ll see the rates advertised in terms of kilowatts per hour (kWh) — the energy used to power 1,000 watts for one hour. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price per kWh for electricity in Pennsylvania is 14.52 cents, while the Public Utility Commission's “price to compare” currently hovers around 8.0 cents. Clearly, there’s a lot of price variety out there. And, given the hundreds of providers doing business in Pennsylvania, exploring electricity options can be pretty toilsome.
Know that Green Mountain’s cheapest advertised plans are all variable rate plans. “Pollution Free,” “Pollution Free Try 3,” or “SolarSPARC 10 Try 3” all advertise a great initial rate — a full cent below Pennsylvania’s 8.49 cent “price to compare” — but its variable rates means the company can raise them at any time. The two “Try 3” plans just lock in the low introductory rate for three months instead of one. The flipside of fixed rate: Should prices fall, you’ll be locked into a contract with a constant, elevated rate for two more months.
Variable rate plans are always month-to-month, save for three-month intro specials in which your rate stays the same for those early months. Fixed rate plans, on the other hand, are available for periods ranging from six to 36 months. The contract lengths, and how that length influences the price per kWh rate, varies enormously from company to company. Some companies offer lower rates when you enroll for longer periods. Others raise the rate slightly. The competing rationale: You will be paying them for longer so you get a break, or you have that price locked in when energy rates inevitably rise. One rule of thumb — the longer the contract, the higher the cancellation fee.