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Frequently Asked Questions
Download the Frequently Asked Questions When Shopping for Electricity fact sheet.
Fundamentals of Switching Suppliers
Your electric supplier is the company that provides your electric generation service. In Pennsylvania, you have the power to choose your electric supplier.
Just like you shop for any household item, you can shop for your electricity to find the best deal and the best service for your needs. Remember, saving just one cent per kWh could translate into more than $100 a year in savings, depending on usage. Competitive offers may not be available in all areas.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to save money by switching electric suppliers. Pennsylvania’s retail market enables competitive electric suppliers to offer services to residential and small business customers in most service territories. Also, an electric supplier may be willing to negotiate on price or other services to entice you into switching suppliers. Competitive offers may not be available in all areas.
Many electric generation suppliers choose to list their prices, along with other terms and conditions, on www.PAPowerSwitch.com — click on Shop For Electricity now. If a supplier is not found on www.PAPowerSwitch.com, then you will need to contact the supplier directly. Also, if you are interested in a supplier’s historical pricing information, you will need to contact the supplier directly. Pennsylvania regulations require suppliers to provide up to two years of historical pricing data, upon a customer’s request.
There are three parts to your electric service: generation, transmission and distribution. Generation is the production of electricity. Transmission is the movement of that electricity from where it is produced to a local distribution system. Distribution is the delivery of electricity to your home or business.
When you shop for an electric supplier, you are choosing the company that generates your electricity. For most electric customers who select a new supplier, transmission costs will also be included in the charges from your new supplier. The electric utility that distributes your electricity will remain the same.
Most residents of Pennsylvania have the power to choose their electric supplier; however, competitive offers may not be available in all areas.
Electric utilities are encouraging customers to shop around because you may be able to save money, or take advantage of new products, by switching to a competitive supplier. Regardless of whether you choose a different supplier, your electric utility will continue to deliver your electricity, provide reliable service and respond to outage problems. The quality, reliability and maintenance of your electric service should not change as it is still monitored by the Commission.
You will still call your electric utility about power outages and repairs.
Considerations for Switching Suppliers
As you shop for electricity, be ready to ask competing suppliers the following questions:
- Is the supplier licensed by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC)?
- What is the EDC’s price to compare, and how long is that price effective?
- Are all taxes included in the supplier's price?
- What is the price per kilowatt hour (kWh)? Is the price fixed, variable or does it depend on time of day or usage?
- Is there a limit to how high or low the variable rate can go?
- Are there any built-in-price increases or decreases?
- Is there an introductory rate, and, if yes, how long does it last?
- If the EGS offers an introductory rate, what will the price be at the end of the introductory period? Will it be able to provide the rate in advance of the service being used?
- Does the supplier offer a choice of energy sources, such as renewable energy?
- Can the EGS provide historic pricing information (for example: its average price over the last year)?
- If my rate changes, how does it change?
- Will the EGS provide its rate at the beginning of the month or in advance of the service being used?
- What is the length of the agreement? Can your price change in that time? If so, when can it change, and how will you be notified?
- Will I receive a notice before my contract expires? What happens when my contract expires?
- Is there a cancellation fee or any penalty for switching suppliers before my contract expires?
- Is there a switching fee to change suppliers?
- What steps must I take to switch suppliers? The Switching Process
- Is there a bonus or any customer incentives for signing up?
- Are there any special add-on services?
- Who provides billing, and will I receive one or two bills?
- Does the supplier offer a budget billing plan?
- Will I still get service from the supplier if I have an outstanding balance or bad payment history?
- Do I need a special meter? And is there a special charge for that meter?
If you choose a new electric supplier, the quality, reliability and maintenance of your electric service will not change. Your current electric utility will continue to provide the same transmission and distribution service. And electric suppliers must be licensed by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to do business in Pennsylvania.
- Door-to-door marketing is sometimes conducted by independent energy supply companies.
- Before inviting a door-to-door marketing representative into your home, providing personal account information or engaging in contract discussions, you should request identification that includes:
- The full name of the representative
- A photograph of the representative
- The full name, business address and telephone number of the company represented
- You may also contact the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission at 1-800-692-7380 to confirm that the company being represented is a licensed supplier.
- Feel free to contact the company represented to find out if it is sending sales representatives door-to-door.
- It is unnecessary to provide the sales representative a copy of your utility bill or the account number unless you are interested in pursuing an offer.
- Carefully review all contract terms before signing, including fine print and any fees for early termination.
- You do not have to make a decision on the spot. You can check your options at www.PAPowerSwitch.com to shop competitive supplier prices.
- If you have any questions or concerns, you may call the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission at 1-800-692-7380.
- PUC Regulations on Marketing and Sales Practices for the Retail Residential Market can be found at: www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol41/41-43/1789.html.
With Pennsylvania’s new accelerated switching rules, most Pennsylvania customers can be switched to their new supplier in three (3) business days once the electric utility is notified of the switch by the supplier. If the utility does NOT have accelerated switching, the effective date of service with the new supplier depends on the customer’s next meter read date and can take 11 to 40 days.
Yes, but first you will need to call your electric utility and make an arrangement to pay your balance on time. Once you've done this, you can shop for a new supplier.
No, the shut-off rules remain the same. If you have received a shut-off notice, please contact your utility for information about programs to help you pay your bill.
This depends on the agreement you have with your current supplier. Review your agreement with your current supplier to see if there are any penalties for cancellation. If you are not sure, call your current supplier. Be sure to ask your new supplier if they have any fees or penalties for cancelling or switching service.
Not if you are a residential customer. However, you may want to ask if the supplier offers an advanced meter. These meters allow you to record your electric use during specific time periods, which could help you reduce energy use and benefit from special time-of-day discounts and other cost savings.
When shopping for your competitive generation supplier on the PAPowerswitch website, you have the opportunity to learn which companies offer renewable energy services. If you click on “Shop for Electricity” and enter your zip code, a list of suppliers offering competitive generation service in your area will appear. On the right-hand side next to each company name is a category called “Renewable Energy.” If there is a check mark located underneath this heading, the company does offer renewable sources. Additionally, at the bottom of the page is a list of “Renewable Energy Add-On Options.” Please note that the companies making these offers are available as additions to your current electric supply purchase and that, by selecting one of these plans, the charge for the plan will be added to your monthly bill.
An all-inclusive per kWh price that will remain the same for at least three billing cycles or the term of the contract, whichever is longer. A fixed price will remain the same, usually for a set period of time. This will give you certainty that your price will not change during the term of the agreement. However, if you are in a contract and market prices fall, you may have to wait until your contract expires to get a lower price. Also, even with a fixed rate, you need to know when your contract ends. Unless you act prior to the expiration date in your contract, your fixed rate may change to a monthly variable rate. You should read your contract’s disclosure statement for the terms and conditions to find out what happens after your term expires. Understanding Fixed & Variable Rates
An all-inclusive per kWh price that can change, by the hour, day, month, etc., according to the terms and conditions in the supplier’s disclosure statement. If you select a variable rate, the rate may change with market conditions. So, if market prices increase, your rate may increase. If market prices drop, your rate may decrease. Understanding Fixed & Variable Rates
Variable rate customers may experience higher bills during periods of market volatility. Depending upon the contract (between the supplier and customer), pricing (on electric generation) for variable rate products may be tied to market conditions; therefore, higher energy prices in the wholesale market may cause your price per kilowatt hour to go up, consistent with the terms and conditions of your supplier contract. Customers on fixed rate products are not subject to wholesale market pricing changes because the price per kilowatt remains fixed for the length of the contract, again consistent with contractual terms and conditions. Keep in mind that higher energy demand in your home or business, often due to changes in outside temperatures causing heating and cooling units to work harder, can also cause higher energy bills regardless if you are a fixed or variable rate customer.
The price to compare (PTC) is the price per kilowatt hour (kWh) your electric distribution company (EDC) will charge and includes: charges for generation and transmission; the state’s gross receipts tax; and the utility’s charges for implementation of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS). Under the law, an EDC’s PTC may be adjusted quarterly but is not seasonal. An EDC develops its PTC based on what the company pays for electricity during auctions held over a two-year period on the wholesale energy market.
As you shop for electricity, ask competitive suppliers to provide you with a PTC so that you can make an apples-to-apples comparison on price for the generation portion of your bill. Be sure to ask how long the price is effective and verify if taxes or other fees are included in the PTC.
Any supplier must list monthly fees in the supplier's contract with the customer. Furthermore, a supplier making product offers on PAPowerSwitch.com must list a monthly fee in the "Monthly Fee" field located under the supplier's name.
In most cases, you should be able to receive a single monthly bill from your electric utility. However, some suppliers might want to bill you separately. In this case, you would receive two bills, one from your electric utility and one from the supplier.
If you have a question about the generation charges, contact your electric supplier. Otherwise, you should continue to contact your electric utility to report outages and request repairs.
There are several things you can do:
- Contact your supplier to confirm the accuracy of your bill and rate.
- Check your contract's disclosure statement for terms and conditions.
- Conserve by learning ways to save energy.
- Evaluate competitive offers at PAPowerSwitch.
Contact the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services at 1-800-692-7380.
The money that you deposited in a pre-pay plan and any interest will be applied to your account, no matter who supplies your electricity.
Yes, residential customers may contact their electric utility and/or supplier and request budget billing at any time. Most suppliers offer budget billing, which allows you to pay a fixed amount each month. Budget billing averages bills out over 12 months, so each monthly bill will be the same amount until the total bill is paid. The company may adjust the bill four times a year, up or down, depending on the customer's use.
Yes, call your electric utility for more details. If your income is limited, programs are available to help you pay part of your bill or lower the amount of electricity you use. Your electric utility may call the programs by different names, but many programs are available to you, whether you switch suppliers or not. Get Help Paying Your Bill
Yes, you may still be able to receive LIHEAP if you shop. Contact your electric utility for details.
If you are a utility net metering/renewable service customer, you will no longer receive credits from the utility after switching to an electric generation supplier (EGS). The utility will provide you with a final credit for any energy you produced prior to the switch. Prior to enrollment with an EGS, net metering/renewable service customers should contact prospective EGSs to find out if these EGSs offer any credits for energy produced.
Gross receipts tax is paid by both electric distribution companies and electric generation suppliers on the basis of the company's or the supplier's gross receipts from the sale of electric generation supply within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Electric distribution companies and electric generation suppliers include the GRT as part of the cost of electric generation supply.
By law, the current GRT rate in Pennsylvania is 5.90 percent. However, since the tax is embedded in the cost of electric generation supply, electric distribution companies and electric generation suppliers apply a gross-up factor to determine the amount of GRT that must be paid to Pennsylvania. As a result, electric distribution companies and electric generation suppliers pay GRT to Pennsylvania in the amount of 6.27 percent on the base price of electric generation supply. This gross-up factor, resulting in a GRT of 6.27 percent, is calculated by the following formula: 1/1-5.90 percent.
For example, if an electric distribution company or electric generation supplier charges a customer $100 per month for electric generation supply, application of the 5.90 percent GRT rate results in an electric generation supply charge of $105.90. Because the electric distribution company or electric generation supplier owes GRT to Pennsylvania on the basis of total gross receipts in the amount of $105.90, it must apply a gross-up factor to the base price of $100. Application of this gross-up factor results in a GRT liability of 6.27 percent. To recover this full amount from consumers, electric distribution companies or electric generation suppliers must collect $106.27 for electric generation supply.
As a consumer, it is important to understand that, even if an electric generation supplier quotes the GRT rate of 5.90 percent, the electric generation supplier is still obligated to pay Pennsylvania GRT in the amount of 6.27 percent on the base price of electric generation supply. Consumers should ensure that any GRT rate communicated by electric generation suppliers in offers or price quotes matches the GRT amount that is included in electric generation supply charges on bills.