Lawmaker calls for ceiling on variable rates for Pa. electricity customers

    After a winter when anxiety over the forecast might have been matched by worry over spiking electricity rates, one Pennsylvania lawmaker is calling for a cap on rates subject to hourly changes.State Rep. Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery, was responding to the surge of complaints about sky-high heating bills this winter.

    As temperatures dropped, electric rates spiked for thousands of people who were on variable-rate plans. Such rates are based on the wholesale price of electricity, and they can change hourly. But a lot of customers didn’t know that. And, in Godshall’s eyes, no amount of advance notice is going to help.

    “People just won’t – no matter what we do education-wise – they won’t understand it, and we’re going to have to put caps on variable rates,” Godshall said at a hearing Thursday. He introduced a bill to put an upper limit on variable rates last month.

    Other lawmakers have proposed responses ranging from better consumer protections to scrapping variable-rate plans completely.

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    The Public Utility Commission has received more than 4,800 complaints about spiking electric rates.The agency favors greater consumer protection. Chairman Rob Powelson said Thursday his agency’s priorities are making sure electric customers get advance notice when their rates increase and are able to switch electric providers without waiting several billing periods. He said no legislation is needed.

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