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How to read your bill
Here's how to find out what you're paying now for electricity, and other useful information about your bill. You'll still be billed by your utility after you switch electric suppliers. No new bill, just a lower rate.
Sample Electricity Bills -
Select a letter below or use the PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons to scroll thru terms.
Advanced Metering Device: A device used to record or communicate actual electric use during minutes, hours, days or weeks; needed for time-of-day, on-peak/off-peak or other billing rates.
Affiliate: A company that is controlled by another or has the same owner as another company.
Aggregator: An aggregator is an entity, licensed by the Commission, that purchases electric energy and serves as an intermediary for a large number of consumers, bargaining on their behalf for electricity and related services. The group "aggregates" or combines customers into one large customer for purposes of negotiation, and purchases the electricity as a single customer for the group.
Basic Services: Services necessary for the physical delivery of electricity service, including generation, transmission and distribution. Transition charges, although temporary in scope, are basic service charges (see the definition of transition charges).
Broker: A firm, licensed by the Commission, that acts as an agent in the sale and purchases of electricity but never owns the electricity and typically does not own generating facilities.
Budget Billing: Most suppliers offer budget billing, which allows you to pay a fixed amount each month. Budget billing averages bills out over 12 months, so each monthly bill will be the same amount until the total bill is paid. The company may adjust the bill four times a year, up or down, depending on the customer's use. Residential customers may contact their electric utility and/or supplier and request budget billing at any time.
Chapter 14: Section of the Public Utility Code containing rules that apply to cash deposits; reconnection of service; termination of service; payment arrangements; and the filing of termination complaints by consumers for electric, gas and water. Chapter 14 is intended to protect responsible bill-paying customers from rate increases attributable to the uncollectible accounts of customers that can afford to pay their bills, but choose not to pay. Under the law, a customer can only establish one payment arrangement with the PUC. The electric utility has the discretion to offer more than one payment arrangement.
Chapter 56: Section of the Public Utility Code containing regulations that establish rules for payment of utility bills, requests for service, payment of deposits, billing, termination of service and complaint handling. These regulations are to protect residential customers of regulated electric, gas, water, steam heat and sewer companies in Pennsylvania.
Commission: The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is the state regulatory agency that provides oversight, policy guidance and direction to public utilities. The PUC licenses electric suppliers but does not otherwise oversee or regulate suppliers. Find more information about the Public Utility Commission.
Competitive Transition Charge (CTC): A charge applied to the bill of every customer accessing the transmission or distribution network. This charge is designed to recover an electric utility's transition or stranded costs as determined by the Commission. For the most part, this charge will go away when rate caps expire. In some cases, it will become a credit.
Consumer Contract: The written disclosure statement of the terms of service between a customer and an electric supplier. The definition of consumer contract appears in 73 P.S. S. 2203.
Consumer Assistance Program (CAP): Provides an alternative to traditional collection methods for low-income, payment-troubled utility customers. Generally, customers enrolled in a CAP agree to make monthly payments to the utility based on household size and gross income. Customers make regular monthly payments, which may be for an amount that is less than the current electric bill for utility service. In exchange for regular payments, some companies may also reduce the amount consumers already owe. Besides regular monthly payments, customers need to follow certain rules to remain eligible for continued participation. CAP customers are able to choose a competitive supplier, but the discount they receive in CAP may be greater than the discounted rate offered by the supplier. Call your electric utility for more information.
Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Program (CARES): Helps customers with special needs find ways to pay their utility bills. Special needs include family emergencies, divorce, unemployment, or medical emergencies.
Customer Charge: The basic service charge to partially cover costs for billing, meter reading, equipment and service line maintenance. If you select a new supplier, the name, address and telephone number for both your distribution and supplier company will appear on your bill.
Daily Peak:The greatest amount of electricity used during a certain period in a day, such as one hour, half-hour or quarter-hour.
Default Service Provider:This is typically the electric utility that provides generation services to those who do not choose another supplier, are unable to find a supplier willing to serve them, or no longer receive generation services from another supplier.
Demand:The amount of electricity customers use at any given moment or averaged over any certain period of time. It is a measure of the rate at which customers are using electricity.
Discounts Available:A company may offer discounts to some customers, i.e. new customers, military, and senior citizens. These discounts are not required and will vary from supplier and supplier. Electric shoppers should check with the respective supplier(s) for further information.
Distribution:The delivery of electricity to your home or business.
Distribution Charge:The cost for delivering electricity from the electric distribution company to your home or business. These charges continue to be regulated by the PUC.
Distribution Line:The local part of an electric system that delivers electricity to most customers.
Distributive Power:A packaged power unit located at the point of demand. While the technology is still evolving, examples include fuel cells, photovoltaic applications and in some cases wind power.
Electric Distribution Company (EDC): The public utility that provides facilities for the transmission and distribution of electricity to retail customers. Electric distribution companies are regulated by the PUC. Exceptions include building or facility owners or operators that manage their internal distribution system and supply electric power and electric services to occupants of the building or facility.
Energy Conservation: To reduce or manage energy consumption in a cost-effective and energy efficient manner.
Electric Supplier: A person or corporation, generator, broker, marketer, aggregator or any other entity licensed by the PUC that sells electricity to customers, using the transmission or distribution facilities of an electric distribution company (EDC).
Fixed Price:A fixed electricity rate will remain the same, for a set period of time.
Flat Rate:A fixed charge for goods and services that does not vary with changes in the amount used, volume consumed, or units purchased.
Formal Complaint:A written dispute or disagreement about a utility problem filed by a consumer with the Public Utility Commission. A formal complaint is assigned to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who holds hearings to develop a record. After the hearings, the judge issues a decision. (See informal complaint.)
Generation:The production of electricity.
Generation Charge:The charge for producing electricity. If you purchase electricity from an electric supplier, your generation charge will depend on the contract between you and your supplier.
Green Power:See "Renewable Energy."
Grid:A network for the transmission of electricity throughout the state, region or nation. The term is also used to refer to the layout of an electric distribution system.
Gross Receipts:The total revenue for a calendar year for all electric distribution companies and electric suppliers, which are derived from the sales of electric energy.
Hardship Funds:Provides cash assistance to utility customers to help them pay their utility bills. Hardship funds provide assistance grants to customers who cannot qualify for other financial assistance programs, or to those who still have a critical need for assistance when there are no other resources. The funds make payments directly to companies on behalf of eligible customers. Contact your electric utility for more information. Provides cash assistance to utility customers to help them pay their utility bills. Hardship funds provide assistance grants to customers who cannot qualify for other financial assistance programs, or to those who still have a critical need for assistance when there are no other resources. The funds make payments directly to companies on behalf of eligible customers. Contact your electric utility for more information.
Hourly Metering: See "Time of Use."
Informal Complaint:A dispute or disagreement about a utility problem filed by a consumer with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS). A BCS investigator reviews the informal complaint and provides the customer with a response to their dispute. Most responses are in the form of a decision that the customer or company can appeal. If an informal complaint is appealed, it becomes a formal complaint. (See Formal Complaint.)
Intangible Transition Charge:Charges to utility customers to pay for special bonds that are used to refinance utility debt, thereby lowering overall costs for the utility and its customers.
Interruptible Rate:A special utility rate given to those who agree to have their service reduced or temporarily stopped as part of an agreement with their electric supplier. Circumstances for service interruptions can be periods of high demand or high cost periods of short supply for the utility and/or system emergencies.
Introductory Price:For new customers, a price kept comparatively lower for a period of time and then adjusted after a specified period of time, consistent with terms and conditions in the supplier's "disclosure statement".
Investor Owned Utility:A electric utility owned and operated by private investors.
Kilowatt (kW):(1) A measure of demand for power during a preset time--minutes, hours, days, months; (2) 1,000 watts. A 100-watt light bulb used for 10 hours is equivalent to a kilowatt.
Kilowatt-hour (kWh):The basic unit of electric energy for which most customers are charged in cents per kilowatt-hour. A kilowatt-hour is the equivalent of using ten 100-watt light bulbs for one hour.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP):A federal program that provides financial assistance to low-income households for home energy bills. The LIHEAP program provides both cash and crisis benefits. Cash benefits help low-income consumers pay for their home energy bills while crisis payments help meet emergency home energy needs. For more information, contact the Department of Public Welfare.
Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP):Helps low-income residential customers lower the amount of energy used each month. Typically, the company may install energy saving features or make energy efficiency improvements in customers' homes to help reduce bills. Contact your electric utility for more information.
Load:The amount of electric power required to meet customers' use in a given time period.
Load Profile:Measurements of a customer's electricity usage over a period of time which shows how much and when a customer uses electricity. Load profiles can be used by suppliers and transmission system operators to forecast electricity supply requirements and to determine the cost of serving a customer.
Load Management:Shifting use of electricity from periods of high demand to periods of lower demand.
Marketer: A company, licensed by the Commission, that buys and resells electricity to consumers, but typically does not own generating facilities.
Non-Basic Services:Services not required for the physical delivery of electric service.
Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA):An independent state agency that represents the interests of Pennsylvania residential utility customers before the Public Utility Commission in rate and service cases and before other state and federal regulatory agencies and courts.
Office of Small Business Advocate (OSBA):A state government office that represents the interests of small business consumers by participating in PUC rate cases and other state and federal regulatory cases.
Off-Peak/On-Peak: Blocks of time when energy demand and price is low (off-peak) or high (on-peak).
Price Cap: A level above which regulated prices may not rise.
Price to Compare: Price per kilowatt-hour a consumer uses to compare prices and potential savings among generation suppliers.
Price Plan: Before entering into a contract, electric shoppers should know if the price per kWh is "fixed"" or "variable".
Public Input Hearings:Meetings where consumers provide input to the PUC on a particular case. The PUC hearings are often held in the utility service area. Sometimes consumers can point out problems with the quality of the utility's service, management or policies that could affect the outcome of a case.
Public Utility Code:The law which sets the powers and duties of the PA Public Utility Commission. It also sets many of the guidelines the PUC uses for utilities' rates and service standards. View the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code.
Real-Time Pricing: Rates that reflect the actual moment by moment cost of providing electricity.
Regulation: A rule or law established by the federal or state government that sets procedures that a utility must follow.
Reliability: The providing of adequate and dependable generation, transmission and distribution service.
Renewable Energy: Resources used to generate electricity that are replaced naturally, or by mankind's contribution (municipal solid waste incineration and landfill methane). Renewable energy may include fuels and technologies such as solar photovoltaic energy, solar thermal energy, wind power, low head hydropower, geothermal energy, landfill and mine based methane gas, energy from waste and sustainable biomass energy. Find conservation and clean energy resources.
Restructuring: The reorganization of traditional monopoly electric service to allow operations and charges to be separated or "unbundled" into generation, transmission, distribution and other services. This permits customers to buy generation services from competing suppliers.
Rural Electric Cooperative: Customer-owned electric utility that distributes electricity to members and that receives lower-cost financing through the federal government. Rural electric cooperatives and most utilities owned and operated by cities, boroughs or townships are not regulated by the PUC. The PUC has no jurisdiction over these electric suppliers or the services they provide. For information about electric supply companies not regulated by the PUC, contact the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association or your local municipality.
Spot Market: A term used in the wholesale purchase of electricity by suppliers within the regional transmission organization.
Stranded Costs: See "Transition Charge."
Sustainable: Renewable or sustainable energy systems are those systems which provide energy services to people without depleting resources, endangering the planet or compromising the ability of future generations to use the same energy services.
Terms of Service: Content of the agreement between a customer and a supplier.
Time of Use: Tracking or recording a customer's consumption during specific periods of time that can be tied to the price of energy. Tracking or recording a customer's consumption during specific periods of time that can be tied to the price of energy.
Title 52: The section of the Pennsylvania Code that governs utilities.
Transition Charge: The charge to recover an electric utility's transition or "stranded costs." This charge may be eliminated when rate caps expire. In some service areas, it will become a credit.
Transmission: The movement of electricity from where it is produced to a local distribution system.
Transmission Charge: The cost for transporting electricity from the generation source to your electric distribution company. For most electric customers who select a new supplier, transmission costs will be included in the charges from your new supplier.
Unbundling: Breaking down electric services offered into parts so each part can be billed separately.
Universal Service: Policies, protections and services that help low-income customers maintain electric service.
Utility Competition: Two or more electric suppliers offering the same or similar goods or services in the same market place.
Variable Price: A variable electricity rate can change, by the hour, day, month, etc., according to the terms and conditions in the supplier’s “disclosure statement”.
Weatherization: Modifying a home or building to conserve energy. Methods include: sealing windows and doorframes with caulking or gaskets, installing storm doors and windows, and adding or increasing the insulation value.
Weatherization Assistance Program: Enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Pennsylvania's Weatherization Assistance Program is administered through the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Wholesale Competition: A market where wholesale buyers can choose their electricity suppliers. Wholesale buyers, such as investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities, cooperatives and other energy suppliers, resell the electricity to their retail customers.
- Generation Charges - The key charge, what you're paying for electricity itself. If you switch, this is what you'll be buying from a new supplier.
- Account Number (or Customer Number) - Keep this handy, as you'll need it to switch. No change after you switch suppliers.
- Price to Compare - Some utilities list this on the bill, some don't. It's the unit price you're paying for electricity. You can use it for direct comparison to different suppliers' prices.
- Usage Information - A breakdown of how much electricity you've been using, usually broken down month-by-month, year to date, and compared to last year. This is useful in estimating how much you'll save by switching.
- Customer charge - a monthly flat fee from your utility for providing service.
- Transmission charge - charges for long-distance transmission of the electricity you've used.
- Distribution charge - charges for local delivery of the electricity you've used.
- State Tax Adjustment - A charge or credit for changes in State taxes.
Special note regarding your specific utility region:
Each utility region has it's own uniquely confusing set of rules, regulations, special programs, and other ideosyncrasies. Visit our Region-specific Electricity info page to learn more about yours.