Natural Gas Shopping Information
What is Natural Gas Choice?
On June 22, 1999, the Natural Gas Choice and Competition Act was signed into law. Now, all Pennsylvanians, even residential and small commercial customers, can choose who supplies their natural gas. Your choice can be based on price, services and incentives. Competitive offers from natural gas suppliers do not exist in all areas of Pennsylvania.
The gas lines that run down your street and into your home are still owned and operated by your local natural gas distribution company (NGDC). The rates for that distribution part of your service are regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. But many Pennsylvania consumers can choose the company that provides the gas supply portion of their natural gas service through their regulated company’s distribution lines.
In the past, you could not choose your natural gas supplier (NGS). Your gas was supplied and delivered by the NGDC serving your area. Regardless of whether you choose a new supplier, your NGDC will continue to provide your distribution service, make repairs to its delivery system and respond to emergencies.
Natural Gas Shopping Statistics - A chart that shows that 411,981 Pennsylvanians have switched their Natural Gas Supplier. Updated January 31, 2015.
Shopping for the Best Natural Gas Prices
Taking Action by Choosing a Natural Gas Supplier
Three Components of Natural Gas Service
Glossary of Natural Gas Terms (Word Version)
How to Shop
You want to make sure that any natural gas supplier you purchase services from is licensed by the Public Utility Commission (PUC). You will also want to find out the "price to compare" (the price per Ccf/Mcf/Dth your natural gas distribution company will charge), the length and terms of your agreement, and whether there are any fees or penalties for switching suppliers.
Shop for natural gas in three easy steps:
Calculate how much you currently pay for natural gas. Get help understanding your bill. (PDFs on How to Read Your Bill Fact Sheets are coming soon).
Contact competitive suppliers for your area. You can do this online, or by calling the supplier. Competitive offers may not be available in all areas. Find suppliers for your home.
Use theshopping worksheet to find if you will save money by switching to a different to a supplier. Download the shopping worksheet. (Worksheet coming soon)
Understanding Contracts and Terms
In addition to pricing information, you will also want to find out important information about the contract or terms of the agreement for each supplier. Some natural gas suppliers offer plans with no minimum contract period, while others may offer plans with a minimum term, which may be several years. Be sure to ask competitive suppliers about the contract terms, and whether there is a penalty if you cancel before the contract period ends.
Fixed vs. Variable Prices
You will also want to find out if a natural gas supplier offers fixed or variable electric prices, and understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Fixed Price - An all-inclusive per Ccf/Mcf/Dth price that will remain the same for at least three billing cycles or the term of the contract, whichever is longer. A fixed price will remain the same, usually for a set period of time. This will give you certainty that your price will not change during the term of the agreement. However, if market prices fall you may have to wait until your contract expires to get a lower price.
Variable Price - An all-inclusive per Ccf/Mcf/Dth price that can change, by the hour, day, month, etc., according to the terms and conditions in the supplier’s disclosure statement. If you select a variable rate, the rate may change with market conditions. So if market prices increase, your rate may increase. If market prices drop, your rate may decrease.
As you shop for natural gas, find out how and for what reasons your price can change, and select a plan that best fits your needs.
For further information, see Understanding Fixed & Variable Rates.
When You Choose a Supplier
When you choose a supplier, you can switch by calling the natural gas supplier or by signing up through the supplier's website. Your new supplier will notify your natural gas utility of the change. The natural gas utility will then contact you by mail to make sure you selected this company to be your natural gas supplier.
There is no deadline for selecting a natural gas supplier. While you may begin to receive offers from competitive suppliers for your area, this does not mean that you must choose a different natural gas supplier. The effective date of your choice depends on your next meter read date and can take three to eight weeks.
Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Natural Gas Supplier
Is the natural gas supplier (NGS) licensed by the PUC?
What is the NGSs price to compare and how long is that price effective?
Are all taxes included in the supplier's price?
What is the price per Ccf/Mcf/Dth? Is the price fixed or variable?
Is there a limit to how high or low the variable rate can go?
Are there any built-in-price increases or decreases?
Is there an introductory rate and how long does it last?
If the NGS offers an introductory rate, what will the price be at the end of the introductory period? Will they be able to provide the rate in advance of the service being used?
Can the NGS provide historic pricing information? (for example: their average price over the last year)
If my rate changes, how does it change?
Will the NGS provide their rate at the beginning of the month or in advance of the service being used?
What is the length of the agreement? Can your price change in that time? If so, when can it change and how will you be notified?
Will I receive a notice before my contract expires? What happens when my contract expires?
Is there a cancellation fee or any penalty for switching suppliers before my contract expires?
Is there a switching fee to change suppliers?
What steps must I take to switch suppliers?
Is there a bonus or any customer incentives for signing up?
Are there any special add-on services?
Who provides billing and will I receive one or two bills?
Does the supplier offer a budget billing plan?
Will I still get service from the supplier if I have an outstanding balance or bad payment history?
Frequently Asked Questions
If one company supplies my natural gas and another provides my distribution service, who will I call about leaks and repairs?
You will continue to call your NGDC to report problems and repairs. The NGDC owns and maintains the natural gas distribution lines.
Will I receive one bill or two?
In most cases, you should be able to receive one monthly bill from your NGDC. However, an NGS may want to bill you separately. This is an important question you should ask the NGS when you shop.
Do I have to do anything if I want to keep buying my natural gas from my NGDC?
I am on a special payment plan through my NGDC. Can I take part in this plan through my new NGS?
Each NGS is different. Before switching, call the NGS you are considering and ask about the programs they have to meet your payment needs.
If I choose a new NGS, can I change my mind and choose another NGS to replace the first one?
Yes. However, you should carefully check the terms of the agreement, especially for any penalty clauses. Also, you should contact your NGDC to find out when your NGS will begin providing service.
If I choose a new natural gas supplier, what part of my service will change?
There are three parts to natural gas service: Commodity, Transmission and Distribution. You are choosing the company that supplies your commodity and transmission.
Commodity refers to the natural gas. It comes from the gas well.
Transmission involves moving the natural gas from the gas well through a series of underground pipelines called the interstate transportation system. The interstate transportation system delivers the natural gas to your NGDC.
Distribution refers to the NGDC sending the natural gas to your home through underground pipelines.
Can everyone shop for a supplier?
All residents of Pennsylvania have the power to choose their natural gas supplier. However, competitive offers may not be available in all areas. For a list of suppliers, visit PAGasSwitch.
How do I know that a different supplier will provide reliable service?
If you choose a new natural gas supplier, the quality, reliability, and maintenance of your natural gas service will not change. Your current NGDC will continue to provide the same distribution service. Plus, gas suppliers must be licensed by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to do business in Pennsylvania.
Where can I get information on NGS prices?
Prices vary. Here is a list of NGSs serving your territory.
Do I have to have new pipes brought to my home if I choose a NGS?
No. Your NGDC will continue to bring the gas to your home through the existing pipes. The NGDC owns the pipes and maintains them.
What is the Price-to-Compare?
The price to compare is the unit price charged by the NGDCs and used by consumers to compare prices and potential savings with other natural gas suppliers. The price to compare may appear on your bill, but if it does not, contact your NGDC.
When will I start receiving service if I choose a new supplier?
Your choice will typically take effect at the beginning of the first possible billing period following the 10-day waiting period.
This waiting period helps prevent “slamming,” which is the unauthorized transfer of utility services without the customer’s consent. To prevent slamming (whether you made an agreement with a supplier on the phone or Internet), your chosen supplier must send you the agreement by U.S. mail, hand-delivery or electronically. Once you receive it, you have three days to accept or decline the agreement.
In addition when your local NGDC receives notification of a supplier change, it will send you a confirmation letter by the end of the next business day following the receipt of the customer’s NGS selection notification letter. You must respond to the local NGDC within 10 days if the information is incorrect. During that 10-day period if you notify your NGDC that you did not want the change of supplier, the supplier change will be cancelled and your account restored without penalty.