by Sue Ann Ryback

State Rep Cherelle Parker speaks at town meeting. (Photo by Sue Ann Ryback)

Electric Choice was the hot topic of the night at a town hall meeting held March 3 by State Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Phila.) at United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia, 102 East Mermaid Lane.

Parker hosted the meeting to give constituents an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns regarding issues facing the community and learn about various services offered by the state, local and federal government.

The recent deregulation of Pennsylvania’s electric market has allowed consumers to shop around for their electric generation supplier. While consumers can save money by switching to another electric generation supplier, the process can be very confusing, and it has opened the door to scams and “slamming,” which is the unauthorized change of a service provider.

As of Feb. 25, the Public Utility Commission has received 31 complaints about electric generation suppliers, according to Denise McCracken, acting press secretary for the Public Utility Commission.

These complaints are informal and based solely on the customer’s allegation, McCracken said.

“This does not necessarily mean that a slam occurred,” she added. “In fact, for many of these, the investigation establishes that it was more of a case of customer confusion, buyer’s remorse, etc.”

Alex Talmadge, a Philadelphia Electric Company representative said customers should be leery of deals that sound too good to be true.

“No one from PECO will call you or come to your home,” Talmadge said.

Talmadge suggests customers ask three key questions when shopping for an electric generation supplier: (1) What is the rate you are giving me? (2) How long is it good for? and (3) Is there a cancellation fee?

PECO is the default service, and PECO’s current variable rate is 9.92 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is the price to compare.

“PECO will be your provider regardless of what company you choose,” said Talmadge. “This is an opportunity to shop.”

Customers currently receiving service from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program can switch energy providers and continue to receive LIHEAP service.

However, customers currently participating in PECO’s cap program, who are receiving a discounted rate, should not switch energy providers.

Other local agencies and organizations attending the meeting included representatives from the Office of Housing and Community Development, Better Health Network, PECO, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (a division of the Philadelphia Streets Department). Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the Mayor’s office of Neighborhood Services and the 14th Police District.

Parker used the opportunity to address Senate Bill 1 and other important issues. Senate Bill 1 would allow low-income families to receive vouchers equal to the amount of per-pupil state aid, which would be about $7,900 per student in Philadelphia. Parents could use the vouchers toward tuition at private or parochial schools.

“I have not made a decision about where I am on school vouchers,” she said, adding that “I can’t argue with a parent who says that those schools aren’t safe.”
She did announce that she was against the privatization of liquor stores for two reasons: loss of income and control. Pennsylvania, which is responsible for the oversight of alcohol, receives about $500,000 dollars in revenue from state liquor stores, Parker said.

Parker asked constituents to send their opinions about Senate Bill 1 and other issues to her. The next town meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. March 10, at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, 7301 Germantown Ave.