Penelec announced its new electric rates for the period beginning January 1, 2011, when rate caps expire, and most small and mid-sized business customers will pay 15% more for their generation supply if they don't shop around for a low cost energy supplier.

Penelec, which is the largest utility territory in Pennsylvania by area, announced that the "Price to Compare," which is the rate customers buying power supply from the utility will pay, will be 7.244¢/kWh for several commercial classes, including Rate GS-Small, Rate GS-Medium, and Rate H.

That compares to a current electric generation rate of about 6.3¢/kWh for small and medium general service customers at Penelec.

Penelec customers include those in much of central Pennsylvania, including Altoona, as well much of the Erie region.

For average commercial customers (using 10,000 kWh per month), the Penelec rate hike can mean paying $100 more on your monthly electric bill.

Metropolitan Edison (Met-Ed) also announced new electric rates on Friday, with rates rising about 6% for small and medium business customers who don't shop for a competing energy supplier.  While not as high as the Penelec rate increase, the Met-Ed rate increase will still mean paying $60 more per month -- or $720 per year -- for an average Met-Ed business customer if the customer doesn't shop for a cheaper electric supplier.

Fortunately, customers can avoid the rate hikes, and save money on their electric bills.  With the Pennsylvania electric market now open to competition, new energy suppliers are now undercutting the utility's rate and competing with each other to win your business.

Customers should leverage the power of competition so you can avoid the rate hikes and maximize the savings on your electric rate.  By comparing multiple rates at once, you'll simplify the process of shopping for a new energy supplier, and avoid rate hikes.