In deregulated markets such as Texas and Maryland, the state government may require the incumbent utility energy provider to allow for unlimited competition within the marketplace, where the consumer is free to choose any electricity provider. Electricity provider switching is only practical if a customer is either buying from a utility or is at the end of a fixed-price contract with a provider.
The takeaway here is simple. As is the case in Washington and Iceland, if a state or country has an abundance of natural resources, it should take advantage of them to drive down the price of a kWh to attract businesses. Diversification is especially essential where possible. Without businesses and industries paying to draw power from the electrical grid, the local economy stagnates.
You’ll also see a flat rate and a price per kWh rate for TDU or TDSP (which stand for Transmission and Distribution Utility or Transportation Distribution Service Provider). These are costs that your utility charges for delivering electricity and maintaining power lines. The costs are unique to your local utility and have nothing to do with your electricity provider.
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.
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.
FirstEnergy’s online shopping experience is woefully outdated, which makes it harder than usual to get to the fine print. You’ll need to take the first step of signing up — follow the Enroll Now! Link — to get “Terms and Conditions” to appear. The website also pays the typical lip service to the green movement, but FirstEnergy plants generate over 95 percent of the company’s total electricity from conventional fuels.
Variable Rate: With a variable rate, you stand closer to the fire. Rather than keep your costs separate from market conditions, you experience the rise and fall of price alongside your provider. You profit when supply exceeds demand, but could pay through the nose if the electricity grid becomes overtaxed. That usually means a higher bill in the summer and winter (when demand is at its highest) and a lower one in the fall and spring. A variable rate plan is best for people interested in staying on top of market changes – when prices get too exorbitant, there’s no contract and no cancellation fee if you want to try a new provider.
Generation / supply price: What you pay. Unlike other states, Pennsylvania keeps cost per kWh easy to understand. Other states muddy the waters by including fees and discounts applied according to usage amounts in the quoted rate. PA companies show you you one steady rate. If you’re looking at a variable plan, this cost will reflect your first month only. If it is a special introductory rate, they’ll tell you how long it lasts.
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.
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