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Politics & Government

Pennsylvania Ranks High in Electric Utility Choice

Pennsylvania has earned top grades from an independent reviewer for having several electricity supply options available to residents and businesses.

In the Annual Baseline Assessment of Choice in Canada and the United States (ABACCUS), the commonwealth had the highest number of electricity suppliers offering rates to residential consumers, and ranked fourth in terms of choices for commercial and industrial customers. The yearly report is issued by an arm of Distributed Energy Financial Group LLC, a consulting and capital investment firm promoting the energy industries.

Pennsylvanians may have noticed that electricity suppliers, or companies that generate power, have been sending out door-to-door salespeople in order to directly sell their own power to the customer. Two neighbors, both under the electricity distributor Duquesne Light, could each have a different electricity supplier, and each would pay a different rate per kilowatt hour of energy used. However, both electric bills would still come from Duquesne Light every month, rather than the two different suppliers.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) spokeswoman Denise McCracken said rather than relying on distributors for both supply and distribution, residents now have options for electricity suppliers.

"Your electric distribution company will still continue to deliver your power. However, you can choose a different pricing plan [and] other types of incentives when searching for a different supplier," said McCracken.

McCracken said the increased choice is a direct result of electricity deregulation, which was finalized on January 1, 2011.

"When our rate caps expired for the entire state, we saw an abundance of new electric suppliers entering our market, offering different incentives, different pricing plans, oftentimes lower prices than the electric distribution companies were offering," said McCracken. "That made the market more accessible for suppliers."

Since electricity customers are still signed up for the distributor's supply prices by default, McCracken said the PUC is considering regulations that would require distributors to notify consumers of their own supply prices, in order to make it easier for residents to compare that price to the rates of independent suppliers.

Residents can already browse a list of electricity suppliers in their vicinity at the PUC's PA Power Switch website.