Pennsylvania businesses and residents have less than 90 days to avoid looming electric rate hikes of about 30% starting January 1, 2011 by exercising their right to choose a competing electricity supplier offering a lower rate.  Because of the time it takes to complete a switch to a competing supplier, Pennsylvanians actually have less than 90 days to complete their switch and be assured of avoiding the rate hikes.  Fortunately Pennsylvanians can find the lowest electric rates with just a few minutes of their time.

Although the end of electric rate caps, and the associated rate hikes of up to 30%, have been looming for Pennsylvania customers for more than a year, many customers have put off shopping for a lower electric rate because of more pressing tasks.

However, customers cannot afford to procrastinate any longer.  While 90 days may seem like a long time, customers actually have less time to choose a new energy provider in order to ensure that they do not experience the 30% rate hikes.

Because your old and new electric suppliers need to have a basis of how to issue your final and first bill, respectively, switches to new electric suppliers may only occur when your electric meter is read, so that a baseline kilowatt-hour usage is established.  Under normal circumstances, your meter is only read once every 30 days, unless you ask for an "off cycle" meter read.

This 30-day meter reading cycle means that even when you shop around for a lower electric rate and choose a low cost energy supplier, your switch won't happen immediately -- you have to wait for the meter read to occur in order for the switch to take effect.

However, the lag in switching can take even longer than 30 days, because, aside from waiting for a meter read, a switch must be submitted far enough in advance to complete various administrative tasks associated with the switching process.  Because these administrative tasks can take up to 14 days complete, the utility tariffs state that any switch to a lower cost energy supplier must be submitted at least 14 days (or so) prior to the meter read date (the exact deadline depends on the utility).

In other words, if you decide to switch a supplier 13 days prior to your meter read, your switch cannot be completed in time for the next meter read, because it's after the 14-day deadline.  This means you have to wait for the following meter reading date in the next cycle, or approximately another 30 days, meaning your switch will not have been completed until almost 45 days after you submitted it.

The bottom line is that the process to switch to a competing energy supplier can take up to, and in some cases more than, 45 days.  So if a customer wants to be sure to have a switch completed prior to January 1, 2011 when the rate hikes occur, the switch has to be submitted sometime before the middle of November -- or just about 6 weeks from now.