Gas and electricity prices change Friday, just as Pittsburghers brace for winter
The price of electricity and natural gas is changing on Friday for many Pittsburgh area customers, just as the winter season is increasing the amount of energy they use and the size of their bills.
“We're moving into a time of year where collectively we use much more electricity and much more natural gas, and that tends to drive the price as well. And it also drives bills,” said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission.
In Southwestern Pennsylvania, the cost of electricity from Duquesne Light will decrease 8% to $0.1046 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), the price will increase 6% for Penn Power to $0.1123 per kWh and the price will increase 1% to $0.10 per kWh for West Penn Power.
The cost of natural gas from Peoples will increase 149% to $3.08 per 1,000 cubic feet (McF), while the cost is decreasing 39% for Columbia Gas to $0.288 per 100 cubic feet (Ccf). (An McF includes 10 times more gas than a Ccf).
These are just the rates that utility suppliers must offer as a “price to compare.” Customers can, however, shop to see if there is a lower commodity rate for electricity available at PAPowerSwitch.com and for natural gas at PAGasSwitch.com. Sometimes the utility’s price is the lowest price available and other times it is not, Hagen-Frederiksen said.
In Pennsylvania, the price of electricity changes twice per year and the price of natural gas changes every three months.
“So the utilities several times a year are effectively, they're shopping in bulk. They're going to Costco or Sam's Club to buy the energy that they're going to need for the next several months to support their non shopping customers,” Hagen-Frederiksen said. “And then that price gets passed along as what's known as the price to compare.”
In addition to switching suppliers, customers can also make changes to lower how much energy they use or make their appliances and homes more energy efficient, Hagen-Frederiksen said.
The price changes only impact the commodity charge on customer bills, which typically accounts for around half of a customer’s bills. Customers cannot shop for a different distribution charge charge, which typically accounts for the other half of a customer’s bill and isn’t changing Friday.
A press release from the PUC noted that, while seasonal natural gas prices have increased in recent weeks, the cost of natural gas is 65% lower than last year. Still, natural gas prices in Pennsylvania are the third highest ever, according to the Energy Information Administration. Hagen-Frederiksen noted that the price of natural gas has come down back to pre-pandemic levels.
“Over the last two years, especially, both coming out of the pandemic and then with the with the global uncertainty and energy markets related to the war in the Ukraine — and even more lately, with the trouble in the Middle East — the prices of energy commodities, especially natural gas and fuel oil, which drive a lot of electric generation, have been rather volatile,” Hagen-Frederiksen said.