PA Electric Switch Time Shortens

The Pennsylvania electricity market is becoming more efficient as consistent market growth in customer and supplier participation has occurred. The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission announced that the enrollment window for a customer wishing to change electricity suppliers will shorten from 16 days to 11 days.

The enrollment window is the amount of time that a customer needs to submit their supplier change request prior to their meter read date. If the switch request is made inside of the enrollment window than the switch will not occur until the next months meter read date. Often this is the case causing a full two billing cycles to pass before a customer sees their new rate kick in. The large amount of time that passes between choosing an alternative supplier and actually seeing the effects on the electric bill has caused confusion and uncertainty in a new market for many consumers. When a customer chooses a lower rate, and then gets their bill 2 weeks later with the old higher rate still showing, the customer starts to doubt whether the switch has been made.

Why such a long wait period?

Customers participating in electricity choice for the first time are expecting the new low rate they have selected to kick in right away. Unfortunately this is not how the market currently functions. When a consumer chooses a competitive electricity supplier, that supplier than submits the order to the utility company who is regulated by the PA Public Utility Commission. With the market still being in its infancy, the utilities require a large enrollment window to get customers switched.

What is actually switching?

Switching electricity suppliers doesn’t involve manipulating the actual lines and wires. The way you receive power remains the same. The aspect that changes is who is billing you for your electricity supply, and at what electricity price. Even the billing period remains the same, and this is the reason that the switch has to wait until your scheduled meter read date. The utility (PECO, PPL, Duquesne, etc..) currently does not have the ability to charge from one rate structure for the first half of the billing period and then another for the second half; so the consumer has to wait until their meter read date when the billing period resets.

The move to real time switches

The change from a 16 to a 11 day enrollment window is a step towards real time switch ability; choosing a new rate plan one day and having that rate take effect immediately. As the electricity choice market becomes more mature it also becomes more efficient. There has been a lot of comparisons between the Texas electric choice market to that of Pennsylvania. When Texas first became deregulated in 2002, residential customers had to wait between 1-2 months after selecting a competitive price before they would see that price on their electric bill. Sound familiar? Ten years later, and the switch date is down to seven business days for shopping customers and only three days for customers moving into a new home. In addition, the actual competitive suppliers offering Dallas energy prices have the ability to turn the power on for the customer. In contrast, Pennsylvania suppliers have to turn the request over to the local regulated utilities which slows up the competitive process. When Pennsylvania allows suppliers to turn on service for customers, customer participation should grow exponentially.


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