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    Increased electric bills are power struggle

    June 9, 2023 - Staff Writer


      Every year on June 1 and Dec. 1, Pennsylvanians face the struggle between power and money.

      That is when the state Public Utility Commission allows electric companies to make price changes.

      As it happens just twice a year, it's definitely more stable than gas prices. And, hey, just because it can change doesn't mean it has to go up, right? There are a few states — like North Dakota and South Dakota — where the price of electricity actually decreased slightly from last year.

      Except there are 50 states, and the Dakotas were an anomaly. Residential rates in most areas bloomed. Pennsylvania is no different.

      For West Penn Power customers, the cost of sourcing the electricity will go up 20.7%, resulting in a 13.1% increase in the average residential customer's bill. What was about $97 will now be about $110. Duquesne Light rates will go up just a fraction of a penny. The company says customers will see an increase of about $1.15 a month, or roughly 1% of their bill.

      Both companies base their numbers on their "average" customer. Those averages are very different. West Penn Power's average residential user is consuming 750 kilowatt hours a month. Duquesne Light's average customer is pulling 600 kWh.

      Pennsylvania is not on the high end of electrical pricing. There are plenty of states that charge more. Hawaii, for example, comes in first at a whopping 44.25 cents per kWh. The New England states average 31.17 cents per kWh, and their rates are climbing even faster year over year.

      However, Pennsylvania is escalating faster than its neighbors. New York's rates are higher at 21.18 cents per kWh, but they grew by just 0.85 cents per kWh between 2022 and 2023, compared to the average 3.42 cents per kWh Pennsylvania customers increased over that time. Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia saw increases but not as much as the Keystone State. The final rates for all of them are still lower, too.

      But while providers like the Homer City power plant are closing and Pennsylvanians are seeing their budgets stretched even thinner by higher bills, the power companies are seeing their take increase.

      West Penn Power is a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, Ohio. It owns 10 electric companies, including three other Pennsylvania providers — Met-Ed, Penelec and Penn Power. In 2022, it had $12.5 billion in revenue. In the first quarter of 2023, its revenue was $3.2 billion — an increase of $200 million over the same quarter last year.

      "This is their (consumers') signal to see if they can get a better deal," West Penn spokesman Todd Meyers said.

      Pennsylvania's electric deregulation does give people that right, not that it makes much of a difference. A Harvard study showed that in deregulated states, costs have increased far faster than in states still regulated by law.

      This increase comes at a perfect time for electric companies, with high temps for the weekend expected to hit 90 degrees. The fight to stay cool will mean the companies with the power will rake in a lot of money.

      Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


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