‘Devastating' Pike electric rates join climbing oil and gas prices

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:06

Milford - The cost of electric power for Pike County Light & Power Company customers will go up more than 70 percent on New Year’s Day and the hike has business leaders scrambling for alternatives. The utility has estimated that the typical monthly residential electric bill will increase from $56 to $97. With the approaching deadline, the Pike County Chamber of Commerce announced Wednesday that it is “currently seeking alternative solutions for Pike County’s energy concerns.” In a statement the chamber found that “not only will these rates take a toll on residents of Pike County using Pike County Light & Power, but Pike County’s small businesses will take a hit on this rate increase. In some cases, businesses will end up paying more in utilities than for rent.” In response the chamber is “reaching out to contacts in the Pennsylvania State Legislature, the Pennsylvania PUC, and various other regulatory boards to find out what can be done to prevent this potentially devastating rate hike.” Orange and Rockland Utilities, which owns Pike County Light & Power says the increase results from the sharply escalating costs of the power that the utility is required to buy in the open market. Since 1999, amid the deregulation of the utility industry, PCL&P has not owned or operated any generating plants, and has purchased power in the competitive wholesale electricity markets for its customers. Power prices have increased in the meantime, but the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) put a five-year cap on rate increases, keeping local electric costs artificially low in the interim. The cap ends with 2005. New rates will be tied to the wholesale energy market prices. According to a company statement, the utility does not make any new profit from this increase. They maintain that 77 percent of the consumers electric costs are tied to purchased energy, while the remaining 23 percent related to the company-owned transmission system has remained the same since 1993 and will not increase now. In keeping with the state’s electric industry deregulation policy to promote customer choice, the utility says it will encourage alternate electric generation suppliers, to bid for Pike County residents’ business. These suppliers purchase wholesale electricity and sell to utility customers, offering lower prices or guaranteed savings, fixed price options, energy produced from renewable resources or other special services. Plans to encourage them include an “Energy Fair” at which county residents will have an opportunity to meet with suppliers face-to-face to learn about their offers. Pike County Power and Light would still be responsible for power transmission. Go to www.oru.com/myaccount for more information about the plan or call toll-free at 877-434-4100. The chamber recommends visiting Pennsylvania’s Public Utilities Commission site for Utility Choice at http://www.puc.state.pa.us/utilitychoice/home.aspx. This site helps consumers understand their rights and options in a deregulated state and lists available energy suppliers.