Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Winter's After-Effects Cast Big Chill on Some PA Consumers

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A long, cold winter has taught many Pennsylvanians about some of the harsh realities of shopping for electricity.

According to Sonny Popowsky, the former state consumer advocate, now a member of the AARP Pennsylvania Executive Council, many residents have signed on to variable-rate plans rather than the more-consistently-priced default service and found out just how volatile the electricity marketplace can be.

"Prices where the regular default service customers were paying eight or 9 cents a kilowatt hour, some of these folks were paying 30 or 40 cents per kilowatt hour or more, and seeing bills that exceeded $1000, and in some cases even $2000 for one month's worth of electricity."

Popowsky said lawmakers should explore a better formula for their constituents who have variable-rate electric plans.

"They can see their prices basically rise to whatever that variable rate contractor decides to charge them that month, and that's the problem," he declared.

AARP supports limiting increases in variable rate plans and making the process more transparent, Popowsky said.

"A lot of people have variable-rate mortgages, but they know up front what the variable rate of the mortgage will be based on, what the maximum change could be at any given period, so those are the kind of protections I think you need."

Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission has received thousands of informal complaints and phone calls in recent months as customers' bills skyrocketed during a time of the year when electricity demand is near its peak.

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