Why long term electricity contracts in PJM service area make sense

The inexperienced electricity buyer looks just at the price and goes with the lowest price. In today’s market (April 2012), shorter term contracts have the lowest price. But taking this approach can be short sighted. Why is that the case? First off, when you want to get a new contract in a year, your price will likely be a lot higher. As long as you know that, fine.  But there is more to understand.

In the PJM service area, one component of your fixed price are future capacity rates and trends. We are encouraging our customers to consider the longest term possible, up to a 24 month term, up to the period ending May 2015, to blend low energy prices against higher capacity rates. Locking in a longer term will protect you from the capacity price increases, which are a known number. So even if the energy cost is the same, the electricity prices will rise because of the rising capacity charges.  The higher capacity charge from next year is averaged into the present cost, which is one reason a longer term contract costs a bit more.  But when you look at your total cost over the 24-month period versus what they would be otherwise, based on the direction of the economy, you will win big overall and protect your budget.

PJM Capacity Cost Component

· June 2012/May 2013 $131.48 Per MWH
· June 2013/May 2014 $227.11 Per MWH
· June 2014/May 2015 $136.50 Per MWH
· June 2015/May 2016 Unknown at this time

· Capacity rates (set three years in advance by PJM) have increased to over $227 level for your next capacity rate contract term

· Recovering economy should keep capacity rates at least to the 2014/2015 level when PJM conducts next auction in May ‘12

· EPA’s plan for MAT (Mercury Air Toxin) rules have driven several generators to close 50’s vintage power plants due to high compliance cost coal plants exerting upward pressure on next auction. Less coal generation means higher prices, but cleaner air. Another reason to lock in a longer term contract.

Capacity charges are typically calculated based on the difference between a customer’s peak energy use during a billing period and their nominal use (normal or hour-to-hour use) during the same period. If the customer expects to have substantially more power available to them than they actually use, then a demand charge is applied to cover this difference.

Demand charges are not a means of gouging customers by charging for unused energy. Instead they are a means of insuring that customers can have larger-than-normal supplies of energy available to them at a moment’s notice.

Keep this information in mind when deciding what contract length you want. Take a long term view and next year you’ll be smiling at the decision you made. Consider the slight increase that you will pay in the short term your price for insurance against rising prices. Insurance costs money. Would you go without fire insurance because it costs money and you have never experienced a fire?

New AEP Ohio rate plan addresses concerns

American Electric Power says a rate proposal the company is submitting to state regulators eliminates several charges that delivered high bills to business, churches and schools.

The company will present the plan Friday to replace the one that was  rejected last month by the state Public Utilities Commission. It calls for larger business customers paying more and restores a discount for all-electric homes.

Small business rates would increase 2 to 5%.

The earlier plan had been approved by the Utilities Commission and went into effect in January. But commissioners revoked the plan after complaints.  Also at issue has been the fee the Columbus-based AEP can charge customers and competitors when users switch to another electricity provider.