HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is urging consumers across the Commonwealth to jumpstart #SaveInPA opportunities for the fall and winter heating seasons by shopping now for their natural gas supply, which could result in a savings on the energy portion of their monthly natural gas bills.
Warmer weather in late summer and early fall typically means less demands for natural gas, especially for residential gas customers, and that can translate into lower prices. Locking in a lower energy price now can help insulate consumers against potential energy price spikes this winter when gas usage and energy prices traditionally go up.
#SaveInPA – key tips
While natural gas distribution companies (NGDCs) are required to provide reliable service at the least possible cost, the PUC emphasizes that its natural gas shopping website, PAGasSwitch.com (PAGasSwitch), currently reflects offers from competitive suppliers in many parts of Pennsylvania below the supply price available from NGDCs. Because energy costs typically make up more than half a total utility bill, lower energy prices can have a noticeable impact on the size of monthly bills.
The Commission emphasizes the following about the current energy shopping market:
Energy use drives bill size – The more energy a household uses, the more quickly small changes in energy prices will convert into large dollar savings on monthly bills.
Falling prices expand competition – When energy prices are falling, competitive suppliers are often able to more quickly respond and may be able to offer lower energy prices than utilities.
Degrees equal dollars – Temperature has a major impact on energy usage, which can also drive total energy bills up or down, so consumers should continue monitoring their energy usage and explore how efficiency and conservation can help manage energy bills.
Consumers can use PAGasSwitch to explore and compare other offers from competitive energy suppliers which may provide savings compared to their utility’s default service rate.
The website provides consumers with valuable information on how to shop for natural gas supply services – enabling consumers to quickly compare offers from competitive suppliers against the default service rate from their local utility – and learn more on switching to a competitive supplier, or returning to default service, should they choose.
Notable savings available for millions of Pennsylvanians
Natural gas supplier offers and prices vary greatly across the state, but many consumers could see substantial savings by shopping for competitive offers.
The largest potential savings currently are in the service territories for UGI, PECO and Columbia Gas, with potential savings ranging from 10% to 35%, depending on the length of contract and other factors. Collectively, that means notable savings are available for more than 1.6 million households stretching across nearly all of Pennsylvania – from suburban Philadelphia to the Pittsburgh area, along with Central and Western Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley, and the Poconos.
The price differences between suppliers and utilities are much smaller in other parts of the state, but consumers can continue to use the PUC’s PAGasSwitch website to monitor price changes over the coming weeks and months to identify any future savings.
What is natural gas shopping?
In most areas of Pennsylvania, residents can choose who supplies their natural gas, based on price or other factors. For consumers who do not shop for competitive suppliers, their NGDCs obtain natural gas supply on their behalf. This is known as the “Price to Compare” (PTC) and can be used as a baseline to compare with offers from competitive suppliers.
NGDCs may reset their PTCs quarterly, using a procurement process overseen by the PUC. The NGDC in effect “shops” for those customers, and energy costs are passed along to all non-shopping customers. By law, utilities cannot make a profit on natural gas supply, as supply costs are simply passed through to utility customers.
It is important to note that these energy supply prices are separate from the closely regulated rates that utilities charge for their distribution services – the delivery of natural gas to homes.
Why switch to a competitive natural gas supplier?
The power to switch natural gas suppliers gives consumers greater control over their home or business’ energy bill. Consumers may choose a competitive supplier based on the lowest prices, services and/or incentives.
As fall approaches, now is a good time for consumers to review past bills and supplier contracts, assess energy usage and rates, and evaluate their natural gas supply options in the marketplace. The Commission advises that competitive offers from natural gas suppliers may not be available in all service territories.
Additionally, for shopping customers choosing to enroll with a natural gas supplier, the PUC points out it may take a billing cycle or two for the switch to the new supplier to occur – another reason to begin shopping now. It can also take a billing cycle or two to return to the utility service. Consumers may check with their NGDC for more exact information on its switching timeline.
What should I look for?
It is important for every utility customer to understand what they are paying for natural gas supply, either through default service from their NGDC or a contract with a competitive supplier.
Key items to consider include:
PRICE – How do competitive suppliers’ rates compare with the utility’s Price to Compare?
RATE TYPE – Is the supplier contract for a fixed or variable rate – and if the rate is variable, what are the conditions of changes in the price for natural gas?
ADDED FEES – Does the contract provide for additional fees – such as an enrollment fee or early contract termination fees?
EXPIRATION – When will the contract expire?
Consumers are advised not to sign a contract without knowing the length of the contract, the price, whether it is fixed or variable and if there are any fees.
Consumers who have questions or contractual disputes may contact the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services at: 1-800-692-7380. More information on understanding a contract with a natural gas supplier and natural gas switching can be found on: www.PAGasSwitch.