Save Customers Millions by Giving Them the Protections They Deserve

From Greg Dudkin, President, PPL Electric Utilities

Here in Pennsylvania you can shop for your electricity supply. Just like you would shop for a car, you compare different offers and choose what is right for you at the lowest cost. Then, if your home or business is part of our service territory in Eastern or Central Pennsylvania, PPL Electric Utilities (PPL) delivers the electricity to you.

Because we are delivering the electricity, we have no vested interest in which supplier you choose. But we do care whether you are paying a reasonable rate for electricity.

We’ve been monitoring the rates shopping customers pay compared to the default rate, which is the rate charged if you do not choose a supplier.

We’ve found many of our residential and small business customers are paying more for electricity through their supplier than they would have on the default rate. For customers paying more than the default rate, over a one-year period, our residential customers paid about $97 million more and small business customers paid $34 million more.

This is alarming.  The data really made me stop and take a step back. The goal of deregulation is to save customers money. And that is obviously not happening. Where did it go wrong?

One of the biggest issues I find is that suppliers have limited accountability to be transparent with customers. Deceptive marketing tactics are used to attract customers.

I am sure we all know someone – or you yourself – who received a phone call or letter claiming to provide a new and better rate. Often these solicitations are disguised as a PPL-endorsed communication, using our logo or stating that the call is about your PPL bill. You may be told that if you switch now, you can get $300 gift card rewards.

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Those gift cards they offer you are often short-term discounts to mask higher rates. And the low rates they offer you are often teaser rates. They only last a short while and then they skyrocket. We refer to it as the “bait and switch.”

Suppliers are intentionally vague in hopes you won’t understand the long-term cost increase or aren’t monitoring your electric bill closely. In fact, there are over 26,000 PPL customers paying double the price of default energy.

Suppliers are arguing that residential and small business shopping customers are willingly paying $131 million more than the default rate for value-added products, like renewable energy. Even if we assume that all customers paying above the default rate are purchasing renewable energy, we still find that over 205,000 PPL residential shopping customers are paying approximately $93 million more based on our estimate of a market-based renewable rate of 1 cent per KWH above the default energy rate.

These practices are harmful and must be monitored.

Look at what happened in Texas – or, better yet, what happened here in Pennsylvania during the 2014 polar vortex. Pennsylvania customers were baited into paying variable rates – or rates that change by the hour, day or month. When the extremely cold weather hit, those customers saw price spikes.

Just like the Texans who are now saddled with thousands of dollars in utility bill balances, the same may happen again if things do not change.

So, what can be done about all of this?

I believe we must critically evaluate the current electricity retail market and put customer protections in place. We need restrictions around introductory, promotion, and teaser rates. Suppliers need to be held accountable and be transparent.

We should also reject any proposals that allow suppliers to aggregate and send a consolidated electric bill to customers directly. Giving suppliers full control over bill communication puts customers at a disadvantage and makes it more difficult for the utility companies like PPL to protect customers.

As we continue to advocate for our customers, it’s critical you continue to shop smart. Read the fine print, be aware of deceptive marketing tactics and check your electric bill regularly to see how much you are being charged.

For more information on shopping, check out pplelectric.com/shopsmart.

From The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce: World Kinect Energy Services is the Chamber’s partner in helping members find the best solutions for their electricity, natural gas, and liquid fuels. There is no cost or obligation to get a quote, even for non-member organizations. Click here for more information.

COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Expands in PA

On April 12th, Pennsylvania entered Phase 1C of the state’s vaccine rollout. This phase includes Pennsylvania state employees, federal government workers and employees of all county and local government levels.  Effective April 13th, Governor Wolf announced that all Pennsylvania adults are eligible to schedule an appointment.

Residents should continue to use the Department of Health’s Vaccine Provider Map to find a vaccine provider nearest them. The department will continue to update the map as the federal government increases the number of pharmacy chains receiving vaccine through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership.

Columbia County EMA is assisting Susquehanna Valley Medical Specialties with COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

Those wishing vaccinations should call 570-389-5735 Monday through Friday only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Provide name, date of birth, address and phone number.

Someone from Susquehanna Valley Medical Specialties will call back to schedule an appointment. The clinic expects to experience a large volume of inquiries and asks callers to allow ample time for a call back. Callers who are not contacted within 72 hours are asked to call again.

People without internet access can contact the Health Hotline by calling 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).

Welcome Donald Geise & Son Construction, Inc.

More than 425 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and the region. Increased membership allows the Chamber to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives. The Chamber welcomes Donald Geise & Son Construction, Inc.

Based in Danville, Donald Geise & Son Construction was founded in 1985.  They offer a variety of services including: new construction, remodeling, and custom design work.  The company is a certified green builder that incorporates green building materials and methods as a matter of standard practice. 

For more information on the Donald Geise & Son Construction Inc. visit its website, Facebook page or call 570-274-1521.

Member News- April 7, 2021

MARC Application to Montour County Zoning Hearing Board

Notice is herby given that the Zoning Hearing Board of Montour County will hold a public hearing on a request filed by MARC.

The applicant desires to secure a special exception to allow unpowered watercraft for rental to the public at the Montour Preserve and offer for rent or sell fishing, boating, and picnic supplies as deemed appropriate by MARC.  The Montour Preserve is located in Anthony Township, Montour County, and is presently zoned public/semi-public.

Interested persons should make arrangements to appear at the hearing which will be held at the Montour County Administration Building, located at 435 East Front Street, Danville, PA, on April 19th at 3:30pm.  Please note that social distancing and masks will be required.


Spring Graduation to be held in person at Redman Stadium

Bloomsburg University is thrilled to announce plans to host in-person commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021! The ceremonies will be held outdoors (rain or shine) at Redman Stadium from May 14 to 16. Each ceremony will follow the appropriate COVID-19 safety guidelines from the CDC, the PA Department of Health, and Gov. Tom Wolf’s office.

 


NEPIRC to Offer Legal Aspects of COVID-19 Vaccination for Employers Webinar Part 2

Since Part 1 of this webinar aired in February, there have been many developments and updates regarding COVID-19 vaccination that have been reported. During Part 2 of this no-cost webinar series, Attorney James Devine will cover these developments in detail for small to mid-sized manufacturers. The webinar will be held on May 5th from 10:00-11:30 am.

If you have a question you’d like to ensure is covered during this event, please submit it to [email protected] by Friday, April 23rd.  We will once again prepare a complete Q&A document after the webinar airs that will be available for download on the NEPIRC website.
Register here.

U.S. Chamber & PA Chamber Oppose the PRO Act

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce & PA Chamber of Business & Industry strongly oppose the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act, H.R. 842), which passed the House of Representatives in early March and is now being considered by the Senate. The bill would force employees to pay union dues regardless of whether they support a union, threaten private ballots in union elections, and strip workers of their independent contractor classification.

The PRO Act would effectively overturn right-to-work laws that have been democratically passed in 27 states.  If it becomes law, workers who choose to opt of out paying unwanted union dues could be fired. Under this legislation, independent contractors would lose flexible work arrangements and see fewer earning opportunities. It would also encourage “card check” voting where union organizers would approach individual workers and demand that they publicly sign a card in favor of the union. Additionally, employers would be stripped of fundamental legal rights, losing their standing in cases before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

“A bill cannot be ‘pro-worker’ if it harms employees, threatens job creation, and undermines our economic recovery,” said Suzanne Clark, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The PRO Act would threaten worker privacy, force employees to pay union dues or lose their jobs, and trample free speech rights. The Chamber will fight to ensure this wish list of union-sponsored priorities fails in the Senate and never becomes law.”

“The ‘PRO Act’ that unfortunately passed the U.S. House is a radical piece of legislation that would upend decades of established labor law, significantly stacking the deck in favor of unions,” said Gene Barr, president & CEO of the PA Chamber. “This bill also clearly exposes the schism between unions and workers.  Make no mistake, this legislation is anti-worker.  It weakens workers’ rights by undermining the right to a private ballot during union elections; forces employers to turn over to unions their workers’ personal contact information – including cell phone numbers and home addresses – even if an employee objects; and prevents workers from decertifying a union they grow to oppose.”

To help employers better understand the implications of this sweeping legislation, the PA Chamber will host a free webinar on Tuesday, April 13 at 11 a.m.  Presented in partnership with McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the program will provide an overview of the legislation, how employers should prepare and how the business community can work together to push back against this misguided proposal.

Register for the webinar at the PA Chamber’s website.

Additional information including a link to the legislation is available at www.uschamber.com/stop-the-pro-act.