Residential PPL rates are up 26%, roughly matching a 10-year high - LNP |  Lancaster

Residential PPL rates are up 26%, roughly matching a 10-year high – LNP | Lancaster

PPL Electric Utilities has for years tried to encourage more of its customers to shop for cheaper sources of electricity, which the state has allowed customers to do since 2010.

Perhaps there will be more reason to look around now.

PPL is raising its housing price by 26.0% as of December 1, the company has quietly revealed. The new price of 9,502 cents per kilowatt-hour, up from 7,544 cents per kilowatt-hour, roughly equals a 10-year high, according to LNP | Lancaster Files Online.

Its corporate commercial rate will rise significantly more — by 36.4% — to 10,285 cents per kilowatt-hour from 7,541 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Electricity prices are rising largely due to higher prices for natural gas, the fuel that powers many power plants, due to rising demand as the economy continues to gradually recover from the recession caused by the pandemic. Overall inflation is a factor as well, according to PPL.

High electricity rates can be particularly distressing for the 71,000 households in Lancaster County who use the energy source heavily because they use it to heat their homes.

This translates to 34.5% of all housing units in the county, making electricity the most common source of home heating fuel. It’s more common than natural gas, taking second place at 33.7%, according to the US Census Bureau.

But as always, residential customers have an abundance of cheaper options than PPL, according to the state Public Utilities Commission’s price-tracking website, papowerswitch.com. The site is showing 20 flat-rate offers below the upcoming PPL rate of 9,502 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Lows as of Wednesday afternoon were Star Energy Partners at 7,490 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Since the state liberalized the electricity market in 2010, utilities have urged their customers to take advantage of their newfound freedom to save money.

Some customers stayed with their interest out of loyalty. But whether the customer finds an alternative source of electricity or continues to use the utilities as his or her resource has no effect on the utility business, as the utilities must resell the power to customers at the same price the utilities paid for it.

(Utilities make their money from the price they charge to deliver that power through a system of wires, transformers, and substations to customers, like UPS or FedEx that make their money delivering packages.)

It was difficult to convince consumers to shop. And only 34.7% of residential PPL customers buy their supplies from an alternative source, according to PUC.

And, believe it or not, that’s a solid level of involvement in what was touted as the state’s “electric choice” program, relatively speaking. Of the 11 electrical utilities in the state, only Pike County Light & Power has more residential customers shopping. It has 44.0% per state.

But if the participation of one-third by PPL clients is ever going to rise, the next PPL rate – which will be at that level for at least six months – might do the trick. The new rate was rarely seen by the Allentown-based company, which has more than 1 million residential customers across Lancaster County and 28 other counties.

Over the past decade, the upcoming rate has only been exceeded once, at 9,559 cents a kilowatt-hour in spring 2015, according to LNP | Lancaster Files Online.

These prices are displayed in what is called a “price to compare” format, as required by PUC. It includes the cost of obtaining and transmitting energy over high-voltage transmission lines, but not the cost of delivering that energy for the final distance from a substation to a home or business.

While the impending rate is rare, the way PPL publishes news of its pending access is different. PPL used to announce their latest comparison prices via media press releases as well as direct contacts with customers. PPL stopped alerting the media to it this year without warning.

A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request from LNP | LancasterOnline for an explanation of the change in procedure. A PUC spokesperson said a facility should notify customers of its new rates by putting the information on bills and should post the information on the facility’s website but not have to inform the media.

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