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.

Of FirstEnergy’s two plans, “Residential Fixed Price” (July 2019) and “Residential Fixed Price” (July 2020), the longer term contract comes with a reduced rate, per usual. If you’re hesitant to enter into a lengthy commitment because you’re planning to move within the next year or two, it’s nice to know that FirstEnergy builds a moving loophole into its cancellation policy. If you’re changing addresses and FirstEnergy does not service your new neighborhood, it doesn’t levy a cancellation fee. Opting out for any other reason comes with a $50 fee, cheaper than any other flat-rate cancellation fee we’ve seen. In fact, it might still be cheaper to go with the longer contract if you aren’t sure when you’ll move, or whether you can take your FirstEnergy service with you.
Deregulation seeks to drive down costs and spur innovation by breaking up energy monopolies. In their place, two separate entities take care of 1) generation and 2) distribution. Electric Generation Suppliers (EGS) create electricity and set their own prices for consumers. Electric Distribution Companies (EDC), a.k.a., your local utility company, bring that electricity to your home.

No. When you’ve chosen a new deal, your new supplier will handle the switching process. They’ll contact you to let you know what date you’ll be transferred over, and they’ll contact you around the switching date to ask for a meter reading. They’ll pass this on to your old supplier so they can send you a final bill. You don’t need to contact your old supplier, as the new supplier will handle everything for you.
The mid to late 1880s saw the introduction of alternating current (AC) systems in Europe and the U.S. AC power had an advantage in that transformers, installed at power stations, could be used to raise the voltage from the generators, and transformers at local substations could reduce voltage to supply loads. Increasing the voltage reduced the current in the transmission and distribution lines and hence the size of conductors and distribution losses. This made it more economical to distribute power over long distances. Generators (such as hydroelectric sites) could be located far from the loads. AC and DC competed for a while, during a period called the War of Currents. The DC system was able to claim slightly greater safety, but this difference was not great enough to overwhelm the enormous technical and economic advantages of alternating current which eventually won out.[1]

We’ve done some of the work for you. We homed in on five of the biggest electric companies in Pennsylvania: Constellation Energy, Direct Energy, FirstEnergy Solutions, Green Mountain Energy, and Just Energy. We compared their plans, rates, special offers, and philanthropies, then dug into the contract fine print to uncover sneaky fees and the truth about discounts. Because most providers offer a range of options, we also looked at the companies behind the plans — paying attention to their corporate impact, customer service reputation, and customer resources in particular.
As an Exelon company, Constellation Energy is part of one of the biggest — and historically most polluting — corporations in North America. Given Exelon’s vast production energy, ranking on the PERI Toxic 100 list is perhaps not that surprising. The good news is that Exelon is upfront about its room for eco-friendly improvement and make it easy for Constellation customers to go green, too.
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.
In some states, utilities can also generate and sell electricity, but customers aren’t forced to buy the electricity from the utility company. They may choose from either the utility or available electricity providers. Before signing up for electricity service, we recommend checking the local utility’s electricity supply rate by checking their rates online or contacting them directly.
Just be sure you know what you’re signing up for. Just Energy doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to transparency. In recent years, the Massachusetts Attorney General ordered the company to pay $4 million in restitution to customers who were charged exorbitant rates and cancellation fees that did not appear in Just Energy’s advertising. As part of the settlement, Just Energy agreed to run all its advertising past an independent monitor.
Still, we like that if you choose to re-up with FirstEnergy again at the end of your initial term, you won’t have to worry whether you’re enrolling at an expensive time of year. First, since it offers just two options, constant for years, its prices are set with the long haul in mind. Second, since the electricity grid in Pennsylvania is more taxed during winter than any other season (space heating accounts for 50 percent of household electricity consumption in PA; air conditioning just three percent), signing up in summer means prices won’t be temporarily inflated.
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).
The consumer has the choice between buying from their local utility (Local Distribution Company - LDC) or from one of the deregulated suppliers. There is a large range of contract options from a variable price to 1,3 or 5 year fixed prices. Electricity provider switching is difficult once the consumer is in one of these contracts, unless they are close to the end of a fixed price contract. However, as of January 2010 there is a maximum termination penalty allowed.[2]
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.

The electric power industry covers the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electric power to the general public and industry. The commercial distribution of electric power started in 1882 when electricity was produced for electric lighting. In the 1880s and 1890s, growing economic and safety concerns lead to the regulation of the industry. Once an expensive novelty limited to the most densely populated areas, reliable and economical electric power has become an essential aspect for normal operation of all elements of developed economies.
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