By Andrew Maykuth

Retail electrical choice is off to a fast start in PPL Electric territory.

Nearly a quarter million PPL Electric Utilities Corp. customers – 18 percent – had switched to alternative power suppliers as of Monday, the Allentown utility said.

And state officials expect that more PPL customers will sign up with discounted suppliers after they glimpse their bills, which reflect a 30 percent increase for power consumed after Jan. 1.

“When people see that high bill – especially if they’re a heating customer and it’s a high winter bill – that’s certainly going to arouse more interest in switching power suppliers,” said Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate Irwin A. “Sonny” Popowsky.

Caps on PPL’s rates came off Jan. 1, and the utility’s 2010 default rate, based on power purchased from 2007 to 2009, increased 30 percent.

But alternative suppliers, which can buy wholesale power at current market rates, are offering discounts of more than 10 percent off PPL’s current retail rates.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has certified eight alternative suppliers for PPL customers, including two that offer renewable power at a higher cost than PPL’s default rate of 10.45 cents per kilowatt hour.

PPL Electric, which serves 1.2 million customers in eastern and central Pennsylvania, is encouraging customers to shop around because the utility does not lose money on customers who choose alternative suppliers.

Customers who choose an alternate supplier still get billed and serviced through PPL, which collects a standard fee for distributing the power through its lines.

Of 248,000 PPL customers who have switched, 205,000 are residential, said Ryan Hill, the utility’s spokesman.

Deregulation in PPL territory has more than doubled the number of Pennsylvania electrical customers who get power supplied by independent operators. Nearly 414,000 customers statewide are served by alternative suppliers, according to the consumer advocate.

Rate caps will remain in place in Peco Energy Co. territory through the end of 2010, when customers of the state’s largest utility are expected to get offers from alternative suppliers.

Our Perspective:

HBS is an independent energy broker who is currently selling deregulated energy in the PPL territory. We are finding prices in the mid to upper 8 cent area. Shold yo like to know more about deregulated savings in the PPL territory email george@hbsadvantage.com

Posted on Fri, Jan. 1, 2010

By Andrew Maykuth

Inquirer Staff Writer

When the Pennsylvania legislature approved electric competition 13 years ago, lawmakers imagined that one day most customers would shop around for the cheapest price or the best service – the way they now do with cell phone providers.

That hasn’t happened.

In two parts of Western Pennsylvania, where market rates rule, for example, less than 20 percent of residential customers have opted for alternative suppliers, despite offers of discounts ranging from 7 percent to 10 percent.

Instead of choosing a power supplier that would save a typical Pennsylvania household about $100 a year, residential customers there seem to be saying that the savings just aren’t worth the hassle of shopping.

“The idea was to give customers a choice,” said James H. Cawley, chairman of the state Public Utility Commission. “You can only do so much, and if people don’t help themselves, you can’t make them.”

But Cawley and others say they believe the climate might change dramatically in the next month as full competition is introduced to the vast territory in central and eastern Pennsylvania served by PPL Electric Utilities Corp., of Allentown, which has 1.4 million customers, nearly a quarter of the state’s total.

Today, state-mandated caps will be lifted in PPL territory – which includes parts of Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester Counties – and rates will go up about 30 percent. Five suppliers are blanketing the territory with ads and direct-mail offers of discounts that would cut the amount of the increase about a third.

Already, 148,000 customers, more than 10 percent, have signed up.

The experience in PPL territory will set the stage for the complete transition of Pennsylvania’s regulated electric utilities to open competition at the end of 2010, when rate caps expire for five remaining utilities, including the biggest, Philadelphia’s Peco Energy Co.

Power brokers are ramping up activity in the state now, with the aim of establishing a long-term presence. Cawley said he had talked to the electrical-generation suppliers, “and they think the Peco market is huge.”

If the industry’s experience in Western Pennsylvania is any indication, residential customers will be reluctant to embrace the change.

In areas served by Duquesne Light Co., of Pittsburgh, and Penn Power Co., of New Castle, Pa., where rate caps came off in recent years, only about one in five residential customers have switched suppliers – though a majority of commercial customers and nearly all industrial customers have.

“We and the utilities haven’t done enough to educate customers,” said Dan Donovan, spokesman for Dominion Retail, a nonregulated subsidiary of the Richmond, Va., energy company that markets in Pennsylvania.

Under the Electricity Generation Choice and Competition Act of 1997, utilities such as Peco and PPL Electric divested their power plants and became distributors that deliver electricity to customers. They earn profits only for the monopoly service they provide to all customers, such as billing and maintenance of distribution lines. Those charges are still regulated by the PUC.

Though the utilities are indifferent to which suppliers their customers choose, the PUC has ordered them to provide power to those customers who do not choose. A utility’s rate, which is an average price of contracts from power suppliers who bid at auctions, is called the default rate.

PPL’s default rate is 10.45 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared with prices of 9.38 cents to 9.52 cents per kilowatt-hour from alternative suppliers. The average Pennsylvania residential customer consumes 10,500 kilowatt-hours a year, so those pennies add up.

Donovan said many customers misunderstood the process of shopping for a generation supplier, whose charges typically make up about 70 percent of the total bill.

“It’s painless,” he said. “You still get one bill. It doesn’t change anything.”

Suppliers offering the best prices typically want customers to commit for at least a year. Some impose fees for early cancellation of the contract.

Cawley, the PUC chairman, said customers who did not switch often said they could not be bothered with shopping for savings of only $100 a year.

“That’s not serious money?” he asked.

Many customers also fear that by choosing a supplier other than their present utility, they will be penalized with poor service.

“It’s nonsense,” Cawley said.

Our Perspective:

We have found great opportunity for deregulated savings in the commercial market. 

 Hutchinson Business Solutions is an independent energy management broker. We have been providing savings in the deregulated energy market in the Mid Atlantic region for the last 10 years. We have strategic partnerships with all the major gas and electrical providers selling deregulation in the PPL territory.

Our clients are saving from 10% to 40% in the deregulated gas and electric market.

We offer a free analysis of your current energy cost from your local provider. All we need is a copy of your latest gas and electric bill.

If you would like to know more about the current market conditions and your opportnity for savings email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230

Deregulated Energy FAQ

February 1, 2010

Deregulated energy markets throughout the United States can mean substantial cost savings for businesses aware of the opportunities. Hutchinson Business Solutions makes benefiting from deregulation easy by answering your questions and showing you how our expertise in deregulated energy markets, coupled with our world-class list of energy providers, can help control costs, stabilize energy expenditures and increase profits for your company.

Q: Will the reliability of my electric or natural gas service change with deregulation?
A: No. Regardless of which energy provider we help you choose, your electricity and natural gas will continue to be delivered safely and reliably by the local utility company, a company still regulated by the Public Utility Commission.


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Q: What happens if I have an emergency or power outage?
A: Because your local wires company is still responsible for the maintenance and repair of the poles and wires, you will call them in the event of an emergency or outage at the number provided on your bill.

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Q: What has stayed the same in electric and natural gas service with deregulation?
A: Your current Transmission and Distribution Utility, continues to deliver electricity and natural gas to your business. Your local utility company still responds to service interruptions and continues to maintain the poles, wires and pipelines. You will continue to receive the same reliable service you are used to with your local utility company, regardless of which energy provider you receive service from.

It’s helpful to think of electricity and natural gas deregulation like the deregulation that occurred several years ago in the long-distance telephone service market. Consumers now have the power to choose the long-distance carrier of their own liking. However, regardless of which long-distance carrier they choose, their phone lines are still provided and serviced by the same local phone company.

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Q: What has changed in electric and natural gas service with deregulation?
A: You can now choose to buy your energy from a different provider than the original provider for your area. These companies are called retail energy providers. Additionally, your bill now looks different than bills you have received in the past, but each retail energy provider provides the same standard information.

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Q: Does everyone have the option to choose a new electricity or natural gas provider?
A: Unfortunately not. City-owned utilities and member-owned electric cooperatives have the option of giving their customers a choice of providers, or keeping things the same.

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Q: Why use an energy procurement advisor?
A: The answer is simple: we save you time and money. Staying in-tune daily with energy markets, providers and new opportunities is a full-time job. With Hutchinson Business Solutions (HBS Energy Management) you can capitalize on the benefits offered by deregulation without committing significant time and resources to understanding the complexity of the markets.

We get to know your business and your specific energy needs. Then we negotiate with energy providers on your behalf to get the best rates and options. After you have an agreement with a provider, we continue to service your business, and in case your needs change we are there to renegotiate new agreements that fit those needs. We do all the work. You receive all the benefits, including no out of pocket costs!

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Q: Will I notice a change of service when I switch my energy provider?
A: No. No matter which energy provider you choose, your energy will continue to be delivered safely and reliably by the local utility company, a company still regulated by the Public Utility Commission.

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Q: What happens if my energy provider stops serving customers?
A: If this were to take place, you would not be without energy. Your energy provider must give you advance notice to give you time to select a new provider. However, if you do not choose a new energy provider, your service will automatically be switched to another provider for your area. In this case, your energy rate may increase, so it’s in your best interest to find a new provider if yours stops serving you.

Hutchinson Business Solutions has been an independent broker in the deregulated natural gas and electric market for over 10 years.  Your local provider buys natural gas and electric wholesale and then sells it to you the customer retail. We put our clients in a wholesale position.

To learn more about deregulated natural gas and electric opportunities you may email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230. Our clients are saving from 10% to 40% on their supply cost. Your savings fall to the bottom line.