When cheaper energy isn't
Judging from emails and phone calls to the Union Leader, he was not alone. The biggest sticker shock came for those on monthly variable rates, some of which doubled in December as a combination of unseasonably cold weather and high prices for natural gas delivered to New England temporarily drove the wholesale price of electricity through the roof.
Customers with regulated utilities or on fixed contracts with unregulated competitors are largely insulated from the wild swings in the spot market. The monthly rate they pay should be high enough to generate reserves that suppliers use to get through the coldest months, when natural gas is used for heating and less is available for power plants.
Some customers, however, were attracted by low variable rates, sold to them in the warm weather months when there's plenty of pipeline capacity for natural gas and wholesale electricity prices drop. Those rates change every month, based on the average wholesale price.
"I had a six-month guarantee at 7.29 cents," said Shaughnessy. "When that expired, I went onto a variable rate. I probably should have known that was going to happen, but I don't look at my electric bill every month and scrutinize what I'm paying."
No notice required
Unregulated energy supply companies are not required by the PUC to notify customers on fixed-rate contracts that their expiration date is coming up and they will be switched over to a non-contract or variable rate, although the two largest competitive suppliers in the state - North American and ENH - say they provide such notices.
North American provided the Union Leader with samples of the emails and letters it sends to customers whose contracts are about to expire. The notice explains how fluctuations in the wholesale price of natural gas are affecting electricity prices and offers customers the opportunity to lock in a fixed rate, but is not personalized with the customer's expiration date.
"As part of our business practice, we don't offer any variable rates. All our rates are fixed for all our customers," he said.
North American and ENH have the largest number of customers in the PSNH service territory and have been marketing aggressively since 2012.
PPG was temporarily suspended from the wholesale energy market on Dec. 24 after defaulting on its financial obligations to the independent grid operator. Its customers were transferred to the regulated utility that serves their community. Most of the 6,000 were assigned to PSNH and can now stay with the regulated utility or make another switch next month.
"Some of those customers have called Resident Power and told us that PPG did not charge them the agreed upon introductory rate," said Bart Fromuth, president of Resident Power. "We are working with PPG to have those corrected."
The most recent "customer migration" report provided by PSNH shows that 96,323 of the utility's 425,829 residential customers now buy energy from an unregulated energy supply company. A year ago, the number of customers who had switched companies was about 50,000.
READER COMMENTS: 0
- Another View -- Bill Duncan: What did the NH Supreme Court really say about private school funding? - 6
- Charles Arlinghaus: NH's job problem needs more than one fix - 5
- Pat Buchanan: In Scotland, it's economic man vs. tribal man - 0
- Another View -- Sharon Day: The Democrats' claim to be the party for women is just not believable - 80
- Deroy Murdock: Stuff the Obama lunch tax - 2
- David Harsanyi: The senators who really threaten America - 1
- Your Turn, NH -- Ted Menswar Jr.: How Manchester pulled together to honor one of its greats - 1
- Jonah Goldberg: Is the Islamic State really un-Islamic? - 5
- George Will: Scotland's epic vote - 1
READER COMMENTS: 0
- Kuster, Shea-Porter split on vote to arm Syrian rebels - 0
- Man arrested in White Park stabbing in Concord - 0
- Motorcyclist in serious condition at Maine hospital following crash on Route 125 in Rochester - 0
- Rochester 10-year-old, grandmother escape fire in home with no smoke detectors - 0
- Two arrested, car and cash seized in SWAT raid, drug bust at South Mammoth Road home in Manchester - 0
- Dean Kamen is a genius inventor, and he's pretty good at oratory, too - 3
- Tom Herzig's Trackside: Modified tour is shortened - 0
- Patriots Notebook: Pats wary of veteran playmaker Woodson - 0
- College Football: Expect offense when Richmond, UNH meet - 0
Keene man charged with assault on 2-year-old
Another View -- Bill Duncan: What did the NH Supreme Court really say about private school funding?
Every vote counts: Here is the proof
Casino gambles: Hopes dashed all over
Havenstein says Christie backing a 'boost'