Starting next week, Penelec customers will see a slight rise in the price of their electricity.
Beginning Thursday, the residential rate for electricity will go from 7.62 cents per kilowatt hour to 8.21 cents per kilowatt hour, spokesman Scott Surgeoner of Penelec's parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., said Wednesday.
Average residential customers who use 750 kilowatt hours per month will see their bills increase to $106.79 from $104.95, a 1.7 percent increase, Surgeoner said. The rate will be effective through Feb. 29.
The quarterly increases or decreases help deter drastic changes in energy rates that might be alarming for customers.
"One of the things we're trying to do with the quarterly change is to minimize both the increase, as well as any decrease, so you don't see the wild swings that can occur in the market," Surgeoner said. "Eventually you're going to have an increase. Even if it drops dramatically, for a certain point in time, it will come back. If you wait a year or a year-and-a-half and try to adjust those prices, you might have situations where there's double-digit increases or decreases."
The increase for this quarter isn't abnormal. An increase of less than 2 percent is what a customer could expect, Surgeoner said.
"By doing this quarterly, we see the 2, 3, and 4 percent changes in price, but that is what you'd consider normal just based upon demand for power right now, which has increased a bit," Surgeoner said. "You've got to account for prices as we go into the winter here. Natural gas prices might be a little bit higher just because of the heating season, so there's a lot of factors that go into the price."
But Penelec residential customers still have a choice in electricity providers.
Surgeoner said he encourages customers to visit PAPowerSwitch.com to view other providers' rates as well as learn tips to cut down on their energy bills.
"Any increase, we understand, is extra money for a customer's bill, but there are ways in using energy wisely can help reduce your overall usage, which would reduce your overall bill," Surgeoner said. "We do encourage every customer to ... look at the offers that alternate suppliers have available for Penelec customers. Some of them may be less than what Penelec is charging."
Any of the 48,000 employees who work for the Blair County Chamber of Commerce's 846 member businesses can switch from Penelec to its special residential program with FirstEnergy Solutions, Chamber President and CEO Joe Hurd said.
"Until the end of January, it's 6.80 [cents per kilowatt hour], and beginning then, it'll go to 7.25 and be locked in until the end of 2013," Hurd said. "There's been a lot of participation from within our membership. The more people that get the information, the more people sign on, because it is a really outstanding rate. To be locked in to that 7.25 rate really puts you in a great position."
More than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians have switched electric suppliers, and five other companies are now offering to supply electricity to Penelec customers, according to PAPowerSwitch.com.
For the Altoona area, there are 9 providers in addition to Penelec. Reliant Energy Northeast LLC currently has the lowest rate of 6.89 cents, while Dominion Energy Solutions has the highest with 8.5 cents.
Mirror Staff Writer Rich Coleman is at 946-7457.