On the one hand, long-term, fixed rate (contract) plans offer stability in pricing. If energy supply costs suddenly go up in your area, you won’t be left paying more than what you bargained for. You’ll have peace-of-mind. If you want to switch out of your contract before it ends with a lower cost plan, you’ll likely face a cancellation fee (early termination fee).
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.
In Pennsylvania, you can choose your electricity and natural gas plan and supplier. More than 2.1 million households and over 250,000 businesses in the state already have made the switch. Now there's reason for more customers to explore electricity deregulation - two PA utilities have asked the state's Public Utilities Commission for permission to raise energy rates for transmitting power to homes and business.
Twenty-nine states have deregulated electricity, natural gas or both. That allows you to shop for the supply portion of your bill from alternative providers who may offer rates lower than the default supplier – usually a utility. Delivery services and billing will remain the responsibility of the local utility as they own the power lines and wires that keep the lights on.
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.
With moderate fluctuations taken into account, the variable plans is still cheaper. Our bill is approximately $10 more in the winter, but we’d still save $138 over the course of a year. It’s more a question of whether you can roll with the punches of an unpredictable rate, or would sleep easier knowing your bill is going to look the same month after month.
Usually, fixed-rate renewable-energy plans are among the most expensive options. But in our research, we found Constellation’s green plan rates were comparable to its non-green versions. For example, out of two otherwise identical fixed-rate, 12-month plans from Constellation — “12 Month Fixed Rate 100% Green” and “12 Month Fixed Rate” — it’s the renewable version that currently costs less.
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When we looked at each provider’s offerings, we focused on plans with innovative pricing or attractive deals, then did the math to find out which would pay off over time. To our surprise, the results were all over the board. Green plans weren’t always more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Sometimes a fluctuating variable rate is still cheaper in the long run. Our takeaway: It pays to shop around. We’ll walk you through our analysis — so you can do the same as you compare rates.