WHAT'S GOING ON? People may comparison shop for electricity

PAT FRIDGEN

Electrical generation rate caps came off Dec. 31, and consumers are now able to comparison shop for a supplier. The monthly energy bill is broken into three parts, generation, transmission and distribution. The first part is the most expensive portion of the bill. Allegheny Power has notified customers that it has already purchased most of the power it will sell in 2011, and the result is an average increase of 3.4 percent from 2010 levels. The rate adjustments started in January, and will also occur in March, June, September and December. The Allegheny rate to compare is 7.13 cents through Feb. 28. The yearly average rate to compare is 7.0 per kWh.

A kilowatt hour is the amount of electricity used by ten 100-watt lights left on for one hour.

Alternate suppliers in the area have different rates and different stipulations. They include:

• Blue Star Energy Solutions. The fixed rate for one year of the renewable energy supply is .082. It is similar to Allegheny's NewWind Energy plan and has a $10 cancellation fee per month for early release from the contract. The contact number is 1-866-258-3782.

• FirstEnergy Solutions. The fixed rate is 6.60 for three years, 6.70 for two years and 6.80 for one year. The cancellation fee, respectively, is $150, $100 and $75. The offer ends in March. The phone number is 1-855-337-7283.

• Palmco Power PA. The variable rate is currently 6.49 and there is no cancellation fee. The company phone number is 1-877-726-5862.

More information may be found at papowerswitch.com

Doug Colafella, Allegheny manager of external communications, doubted many customers would actually switch suppliers because rates were still attractive.

"Historically, Allegheny Power was a low cost utility," he said. "If a residential customer doesn't use a lot of power, they need sticker shock to be motivated to switch. We're still below state averages, and way below the national average."

The price caps were in place since 1997, which sometimes meant AP purchased power for more than it could sell it. Now the playing field is level and the result is real competition, he said. Allegheny Power bought its 2011 supply at auctions, and the prices were generally low. In a more robust economy, that could change.

Customers who make a switch will still get their bills through Allegheny Power, and that company is the one to also call for any power outages. A phone call to the alternate supplier is all it takes to make a change in the generation rate.