The Best Pennsylvania Electricity Companies
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How we Found the Best Pennsylvania Electricity Companies
20 hours of research
4 companies evaluated
19 plans assessed
The Best Pennsylvania Electricity Companies
Two separate entities take care of the generation and distribution of energy in Pennsylvania. Electric Generation Suppliers (EGS) create electricity and set their own prices for consumers. Electric Distribution Companies (EDC), a.k.a., your local utility company, bring that electricity to your home.You can choose from the EGSs operating in your area, or stay on with your default provider — your EDC. Moving to an EGS could get you cheaper rates, better rewards, and more say in what fuels (like wind power) generate your electricity.
How we chose the best Pennsylvania energy companies
Four biggest companies
We homed in on four of the biggest electric companies in Pennsylvania: Constellation Energy, Direct Energy, Green Mountain Energy, and Just Energy. We compared their plans, rates, special offers, and philanthropies, then dug into the contract fine print to uncover sneaky fees and the truth about discounts. Because most providers offer a range of options, we also looked at the companies behind the plans — paying attention to their corporate impact, customer service reputation, and customer resources in particular.
Standardized rate plan
When we talk about the fine print, we’re talking about the Rate Plan Summary. That’s Pennsylvania’s standardized document for electricity plan information. This is where you’ll find the price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and the cancellation policy. We pulled the nitty gritty plan info out of the summaries to help us compare plans and fees.
Long term pay-off
When we looked at each provider’s offerings, we focused on plans with innovative pricing or attractive deals, then did the math to find out which would pay off over time. To our surprise, the results were all over the board. Green plans weren’t always more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Sometimes a fluctuating variable rate is still cheaper in the long run. Our takeaway: It pays to shop around.
A quick note: We based our calculations on 1,000 kWh monthly usage — the average for residential customers. To get a more accurate estimate of what you could end up paying, find the total kWh usage on your previous electric bills, then multiply each provider’s quoted rate by the amount of energy you use.
The 4 Best Pennsylvania Electric Companies
Green Mountain Energy
Why we chose it
Green Mountain Energy’s track record for customer satisfaction is impressive. Its overall J.D. Power score for customer satisfaction considers price, communications, corporate citizenship, enrollment and renewal, and customer service. At 709 out of 1,000, Green Mountain Energy scored the highest of all Pennsylvania companies, well above the 669 state average, and a solid 20 points ahead of the next closest provider we looked at — Constellation.
Green Mountain Energy’s track record of eco-friendly initiatives trumps just about every other energy company that claims to be pulling for the environment. In fact, J.D. Power gives it five out of five power circles, with particular accolades for Corporate Citizenship.
Green Mountain has been behind massive green power projects like supplying the Empire State Building with renewably-offset power, and its nonprofit organization Sun Club provides grants for environmental projects — like Urban REAP (Urban Renewable Energy and Agriculture Project), an innovative community greenhouse that uses solar power, aquaponics, and composting.
Variable rates offer flexibility
The good news about variable rate plans: They’re month-to-month, meaning you hold no contract and can ditch at any time without penalty. If you keep on top of regional wholesale costs, you’ll know when rates are about to rise and can switch plans.
So which plan type is cheaper for you? That requires some math. We know that electricity rates are slated to rise by about 2% this year. If we allow for seasonal electricity grid changes (historically, about a one-cent difference between the height of summer and the depths of winter), you can approximate the total expense of the fixed rate versus variable rate plan after one year.
Points to consider
Variable rates can be raised
Green Mountain’s cheapest advertised plans are all variable rate plans. The company’s “Pollution Free” or “SolarSPARC” plans advertise a great initial rate — and lock into it for a year — but that means the company can raise them at any time after that. The flipside of fixed rate: Should prices fall, you’ll be locked into a contract with a constant, elevated rate.
Variable rates jump around, swelling one month and reducing the next, anywhere from a sliver of a percentage to a slice. These changes don’t occur randomly — they follow the wholesale electricity market and the balance of supply and demand. (Demand is highest in the winter when more homes are running their furnace.) It’s a question of whether you can roll with the punches of an unpredictable rate, or would sleep easier knowing your bill is going to look the same month after month.
Why we chose it
Inexpensive green plans
Usually, fixed-rate renewable-energy plans are among the most expensive options. But in our research, we found Constellation’s green plan rates were comparable to its non-green versions. For example, the “24 Month Green Home Power Plan” is currently 7.59 cents per kWh, the same price as the “36 Month Home Power Plan” and somewhat cheaper than the “12 Month Home Power Plan” at 7.99 cents. Over a year, you could save nearly $100 by choosing the green plan. Or save yourself the trouble of shopping around (and messing with re-enrollment) for three years with the fixed-rate plan.
Good ranking at J.D. Power
While its J.D. Power score doesn’t quite compare with Green Mountain Energy’s (falling short for Corporate Citizenship, Communications, Price, and Overall Satisfaction), it’s the second-highest of the Pennsylvania EGSs we looked at.
This could be either a pro or a con, depending upon your preferences: Constellation automatically re-ups your contract when your present contract expires, no matter which plan you choose. It’ll send you two notifications prior to re-enrollment, but if you miss those prompts, you have until the first meter read of your new contract to exit it. After that, a $150 termination fee will apply. Constellation Energy and Just Energy are the only two companies in our lineup with this policy. The others allow your service to lapse back to your utility company if you don’t personally re-enroll.
Points to consider
Appears on Toxic 100 list
As an Exelon company, Constellation Energy is part of one of the biggest — and historically most polluting — corporations in North America. Given Exelon’s vast production energy, ranking on the PERI Toxic 100 list is perhaps not that surprising. The good news is that Exelon is upfront about its room for eco-friendly improvement and makes it easy for Constellation customers to go green, too.
Rates higher after initial contract
It’s important to note that Constellation’s attractive initial rates aren’t likely to stick around for your second year. According to the customer reviews on Consumer Affairs, the company offers great rates for new customers, but it may not be worth it to stay with the company for more than the initial contract.
Why we chose it
Lock in rates
Just Energy is the only company on our list that exclusively offers long-term contracts, starting at 24 months. Prices may fluctuate in general, but the overall trend is to rise — so if you’re keen on locking in a price for the long haul, Just Energy gives you the most options for doing so.
Emphasis on customer service
After getting slapped with a $4 million fine in 2015 for deceptive marketing and overcharging their customers, Just Energy has worked with an independent monitor to turn the company’s forward face in a new direction — and it seems to be working. The company began by revamping its website to make rates and plans more easily accessible and understandable — something we dinged them on when we first reviewed them several years ago. Online reviews have improved, and customers are reporting positive experiences with company reps and service people. It clearly has some work to do still, but we were pleased to see considerable improvements since 2015.
Points to consider
Lack of transparency
Just Energy doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to transparency. In 2015, the Massachusetts Attorney General ordered the company to pay $4 million in restitution to customers who were charged exorbitant rates and cancellation fees that did not appear in Just Energy’s advertising. As part of the settlement, however, Just Energy agreed to run all its advertising past an independent monitor. The company has cooperated with all restitutive measures, and its advertising should now track more faithfully to actual rates and fees.
Fee for online billing
Just Energy is pretty big on old-fashioned communication channels. For instance, you can pay your bills online, but you’ll be charged a convenience fee — around $2.50 per transaction. While most companies we encountered rewarded paperless billing, Just Energy discouraged it.
Why we chose it
All of Direct Energy’s offers include either a rewards program (such as a free Echo Dot with a fixed-rate plan) or a charitable donation, and the benefits get bigger the more electricity you use. Paying for electricity isn’t exactly the most fun thing you could spend your money on, so if you’re looking for a little sugar to help the medicine go down, Direct Energy has a dessert tray of options. But fair warning: They’re not quite as sweet as they look.
Free nights or weekends
Two of the most promising plans include “Free Power Weekends 12” and “Free Power Nights 12.” If you spend most of your leisure time out of the house, these plans won’t do much for your bottom line. But if home is your favorite place to be, you could profit. Most people use about 31% of their total energy on the weekends. If you go through the average 1,000 kWh per month, you'll get about 310 kWh for free. Using data compiled by the EIA, we estimated 30% of average total energy is also used during evenings (including weekend evenings), working out to about 300 free kWh.
Direct Energy’s website is one of the better ones we looked at. It’s easy to find the rates and details for each of the company’s plans, one click away from the home page. The company is invested in working with Amazon’s Alexa platform, and the site guides you in how to use Alexa to check your bill, find out monthly or weekly usage, or refer a friend. There’s a live chat option for questions, and the site’s energy usage insight tools help you to see, understand, and manage your energy use at an appliance-specific level.
Points to consider
Be aware of drawbacks for “free” energy plans
We highlight the free weekend and free nights plans above as a “pro” for choosing one of those plans — and it may be. But you’ll want to do the math to see if that works out in your case. Our calculations show that the company’s plans with lower kWh rate still bring better savings for some, though the total number of free hours is greater for Free Power Weekends (54 hours) than Free Power Nights (28 hours).
If you would rather have a steady rate and not think twice about starting a load of laundry at 6:30 p.m. versus 7:30 p.m., Direct Energy’s standard, 12-month, fixed-rate plan Live Brighter runs at an affordable 7.59 cents per kWh, as opposed to 10.29 cents for Free Power Nights and 8.07 cents for Free Power Weekends. Using 1,000 kWh per month would add up to a yearly total of $910.80 — higher than both Free Nights and Free Weekends, but also a lot simpler.
Guide to Pennsylvania Electric Companies
How to choose a Pennsylvania Electric Company
Choose your pricing structure
You have two options here, fixed or variable rate. The energy market is volatile, as is the price that your retail generator pays to create, store, and transport electricity. A fixed rate protects you from these fluctuations by locking in one steady price for the duration of your contract — ideal for those who like to budget.
Fixed rates may seem higher upfront, but they typically average out over the length of your contract, because energy prices rise over time. Contract lengths range anywhere between six months and three years, and companies typically charge a fee if you opt out early, between $50 and $150.
With a variable rate, you stand closer to the fire. Rather than keep your costs separate from market conditions, you experience the rise and fall of price alongside your provider. You profit when supply exceeds demand, but could pay through the nose if the electricity grid becomes overtaxed. That usually means a higher bill in the summer and winter (when demand is at its highest) and a lower one in the fall and spring. A variable rate plan is best for people interested in staying on top of market changes — when prices get too exorbitant, there’s no contract and no cancellation fee if you want to try a new provider.
Consider term length
Variable-rate plans are always month-to-month, save for three-month intro specials in which your rate stays the same for those early months. Fixed-rate plans, on the other hand, are available for periods ranging from six to 36 months. The contract lengths, and how that length influences the price per kWh rate, varies enormously from company to company. Some companies offer lower rates when you enroll for longer periods. Others raise the rate slightly. The competing rationale: You will be paying them for longer so you get a break, or you have that price locked in when energy rates inevitably rise. One rule of thumb — the longer the contract, the higher the cancellation fee.
Understand the rate plan summary
Every deregulated state requires its retail energy providers to present each plan’s info in a condensed, easy-to-read format. In Pennsylvania, this plain language document is the Rate Plan Summary or the Electric Generation Supplier Contract Summary. We promise, it’s easier to understand than its name suggests.
Summaries follow a standardized format intended to give you a clear picture of every plan’s rates, fees, and terms. Here’s a breakdown of the terms you'll see listed.
- Price structure: How you pay. The price structure section lists your plan type: variable or fixed rate. It also includes any other charges that would be part of your regular bill, like distribution fees and base charges.
- Generation / supply price: What you pay. Unlike other states, Pennsylvania keeps cost per kWh so it’s easy to understand. Other states muddy the waters by including fees and discounts applied according to usage amounts in the quoted rate. PA companies show you one steady rate. If you’re looking at a variable plan, this cost will reflect your first month only. If it is a special introductory rate, it’ll tell you how long it lasts.
- Statement regarding savings: How your price compares. This is usually a generic statement that you may or may not be getting a better price than you would from the utility company, also known as the Electric Distribution Company, or EDC. Your local EDC sets a “price to compare” and any competitors’ plan may be lower or higher by several cents per kWh.
- Deposit requirements: Any starting sum and how much.
- Incentives: Any discounts, bonuses, and cashback offers.
- Contract start date: When they’ll start running your meter.
- Contract term / length: How long service runs, in months or bill cycles.
- Cancellation / early termination fees: The return policy. State law requires a three-day rescission period at the start of every plan, and most providers offer a trial period for the first couple months. If the plan levies any fees for leaving your contract after that, they’ll list the charge and any steps you might take to avoid it.
- Renewal terms: When and how you will receive notification of your contract expiring. Most providers will give you a heads-up two months and one month prior, and detail your options for future contracts.
- Electric Distribution Company information: Your local utility company’s contact info. Your EDC is still responsible for getting electricity to your home, and retail providers never get tired of telling you so. If you have distribution questions or experience power outages, who you gonna call? Your EDC.
Pennsylvania Electric Company FAQ
The Best Pennsylvania Electric Companies: Summed Up
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