PITTSBURGH, Oct. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Electricity customers in Pennsylvania deserve fair rates and full choice in selecting an electric power provider, according to the newly-established Energy Consumers First coalition, which today outlined a detailed Energy Consumers Bill of Rights that it seeks to have adopted by state regulators.
The new coalition seeks to give Pennsylvania's energy consumers a stronger voice in utility issues, including how the upcoming expiration of rate caps is handled in Western Pennsylvania for customers of Allegheny Power, Met-Ed and Penelec.
The new Energy Consumers First coalition has already been endorsed by former state Treasurer and Auditor General Barbara Hafer, who has been named Honorary Chairwoman of the effort. The coalition is a citizen-driven initiative whose goals are to ensure that energy consumers' rights are defended and that they are provided with accurate, timely and unbiased information about choosing an electric supplier once rate caps are terminated on January 1, 2011. The coalition believes that consumers should experience the full benefits of electricity competition as was envisioned when the Act was passed.
"The Energy Consumers First coalition is primarily a consumer protection effort that focuses upon public education and awareness," said Barbara Hafer during a formal launch press conference held in downtown Pittsburgh today. "Our goals are to ensure that energy consumers are paying a fair price for the power we use, and that we have full electric choice once the rate caps do expire."
Hafer said the genesis of the new coalition was the pending merger of energy giant First Energy with Allegheny Power, and First Energy's efforts to have it designated as the "dominant supplier" for electric customers in the Allegheny Power and other Western Pennsylvania service areas. The merger request is currently being considered by the state Public Utility Commission, which is expected to conclusively rule on the matter early next year.
One of the alternatives to the First Energy "dominant supplier" plan is to have all of the electric customers in the affected area be entered into a pool of customers that would be bid upon in a consumer-friendly public auction, with auction proceeds then returned to the individual residents and businesses in amounts ranging from $150 to $500, a significant benefit in today's economy. This proposal will foster true competition among electricity suppliers for the affected customer accounts. The rebate idea is also being considered by the PUC as part of the merger request in spite of First Energy's adamant opposition to it.
Hafer noted that another key aspect of the coalition's mission is ensuring that the rates consumers pay are true and accurate, and reflects what the actual costs are to the utility. Many electric utilities are locking in their customers' energy supply at higher than market rates for extended periods of time, even though the costs of buying that power have decreased over time. Without competitive options, customers could be locked-in to higher rates, rather than being allowed to receive the rebate and potentially lower rates.
"This is an unacceptable situation and our regulators and legislators in Harrisburg should be taking steps to prevent this unfair and inequitable practice," noted Hafer. "Pennsylvania residents continue to struggle in this economic downturn, and certainly every extra dollar that they can get or avoid having to pay will be well-used and appreciated."
The Energy Consumers First coalition is urging consumers from across the state to sign its online petition urging the adoption of the Energy Consumers Bill of Rights, as well as contact the PA Office of the Consumer Advocate to express support for it. Letters, emails, and calls to local utilities and legislators are also being solicited. More information on the Energy Consumers First coalition can be obtained from the organization's website at www.energyconsumersfirst.com, or by calling 1-866-885-3438.
SOURCE Energy Consumers First