Residential customers in Central and Western Pennsylvania who don't shop for a competitive electric supplier will pay more for electricity starting March 1.

That's because two large FirstEnergy utilities, Penelec and Penn Power, will increase the electric rate charged to "default service" electric customers -- meaning those who continue to buy their power supply from the local utility, instead of shopping for a competing provider.

Penelec (Pennsylvania Electric Company) serves approximately 590,000 customers in 31 central and western Pennsylvania counties, including customers in Altoona and Johnstown.  Penn Power serves about 150,000 customers in western Pennsylvania, including outlying areas surrounding Pittsburgh.

Penelec and Penn Power no longer own power plants, and only maintain the distribution grid to deliver power supplies to you.  You do not have to buy your power supplies from Penelec and Penn Power, but if you do not choose an alternative provider, Penelec and Penn Power will supply you with "default" electricity supply.

Default service is a pass-through of wholesale electric purchases that Penelec and Penn Power make on the open market, and, as a result, the default electric rate can be quite volatile as market conditions change.  The default Penelec and Penn Power electric rate for residential customers changes every three months, and will next change on March 1.

Specifically, the Penelec residential default electric rate will increase to 7.734¢ per kilowatt-hour (kWh) on March 1, an increase of over 7%. The rates quoted here do not include the State Tax Adjustment Surcharge, which has a negligible effect on rates.

The Penn Power residential default electric rate will increase to 6.181¢ per kWh on March 1, an increase of nearly 4%.

Customers can avoid the Penelec and Penn Power rate hikes by choosing a competitive electric supplier. Better yet, customers can take control of their energy spending, by finding an electric rate plan that best suits their needs --instead of receiving a one-size-fits-all "default" electric product from the utility.