Penelec customers will see an increase in their price of electricity beginning Saturday.
The residential rate for electricity will increase from 5.96 cents per kilowatt hour to 7.07 cents per kilowatt hour, said spokesman Scott Surgeoner of FirstEnergy Corp., Penelec's parent company.
The average residential customer who uses 750 kilowatt hours per month will see his bill increase from $92.35 to $96.88, a 4.9 percent increase.
There are a few reasons for the increase after three consecutive quarterly rate drops, Surgeoner said.
"We are back in the winter period. The price could have been impacted by summer storms. The price of natural gas has crept up, and that helps drive the price of electricity. Typically in the heating season, prices tend to drift higher," Surgeoner said.
When electricity rate caps expired Dec. 31, 2010, Penelec increased its rate for electricity from 5.7 cents per kilowatt hour to 7.03 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers. The rate, which Penelec calls its "price to compare," has fluctuated since that time. The company updates prices quarterly.
"The reason we do the quarterly adjustments is to minimize the spikes and deep valleys," Surgeoner said.
Penelec serves 600,000 customers in 31 western Pennsylvania counties. For the Altoona area, there are 13 providers in addition to Penelec. The rates for the area, according to PAPowerSwitch.com, range from Respond Power LLC at 4.9 cents per kilowatt hour to AEP Energy at 8.37 cents per kilowatt hour.
To date, more than 1.9 million Pennsylvanians have switched electric suppliers.
The Blair County Chamber of Commerce has offered a residential program and that offer has been extended to all Penelec customers in Blair County.
Through the program, offered through FirstEnergy Solutions, an unregulated subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., customers were able to lock in a rate of 7.25 cents per kilowatt hour through the end of 2013.
Joe Hurd, president and CEO of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce, said he is not surprised Penelec's rate has increased.
"We figured there would be a significant jump. Unfortunately for customers, this probably won't be the last jump. We are still feeling good with the 7.25 cents; six months from now, that rate will probably look good," Hurd said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.