Pennsylvania offers first-time retail shoppers an attractive discount with the Standard Offer Program. The Public Utility Commission has a rotating list of retail providers and upon enrollment, they’ll hook you up with a 12-month fixed-rate plan at seven percent off the current utility price. You can cancel at any time without fees. For 1,000 kWh per month usage, PECO quoted us a price to compare of 7.13 cents. A seven percent discount brings that rate to 6.63 cents per kWh (lower than any plan on our provider list) — a $60 savings after a year of service.
Ultimately, the main difference between an electricity provider and an electric utility comes down to what they service and how. Electricity providers deal with purchasing and marketing electricity to customers. Electric utilities handle the poles and wires that service your home. Separating these roles means customers can shop for a competitive electricity rate and still receive reliable electric service.
On the other hand, month-to-month variable rate (no-contract) plans don’t have cancellation fees. You won’t be penalized if you find a better deal elsewhere and want to make another switch. And, you won’t be stuck paying more than you should be if the market rate for electricity trends down. But, if it goes up, you’ll be paying more than your in-contract neighbors, and you’ll likely want to shop around again for a better deal.
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.