Cap removal may almost double University's electric bill

January 20, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- A decision by the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) that allows West Penn Power to lift the rate caps on electricity for Penn State means higher electric bills for the University. The decision, which affects only Penn State’s University Park campus at this time, could cause electric rates on the campus to increase by an estimated $18 million over the next two years.

“The rate caps held the price of electricity below the market rate,” said Laura Miller, Office of Physical Plant senior energy program engineer.  “In Pennsylvania, Penn State University Park campus is the only customer of West Penn Power that has a tariff that is written specifically for us. We are the first customer to come off rate caps — two years earlier than all other Pennsylvania customers. So the rate cap’s removal affects us greatly.”

In addition to appealing the decision — which University officials have deemed "unfair" and "unprecedented" — in Commonwealth Court, Penn State also is taking a number of actions to conserve energy and keep electric bills as low as possible.  Below are some tips that consumers can heed to lower energy use both on and off campus.

Resource conservation has been a top priority for the University for decades and with the rate cap removal, it has become more important than ever. Penn State runs several environmental initiatives that not only keep the University’s carbon emission totals down, but also its electricity bill low.

Through the Take Charge and Green-PSU Web sites, students, faculty, staff and other visitors can learn many ways to conserve energy and also learn about the many different environmental strategies and programs that Penn State is a part of.

“These Web sites can help us become better environmental stewards,” Miller said. “There are many things we can do both on campus and at home.”

Finance and Business’s Environmental Stewardship Key Initiative aims to improve the management and practices of “green” purchasing, environmental leadership, and the use of energy, water and other resources.

Thanks to programs like the Office of Physical Plant’s Energy Savings Program (ESP), the use of water and electricity has been greatly reduced in residence halls on several commonwealth campuses across the state.

Since 2004, the ESP program has avoided $4.8 million in energy costs at University Park and another $1 million at the campuses. This equates to a more than 10 percent reduction in annual utility costs.

Students are encouraged to unplug their phone and mp3 player chargers and to turn off gaming consoles and computers when they are not being used. Other energy-saving tips include using a microwave to heat food instead of an oven or stovetop, and to purchase products that have an Energy Star label on them.

To date, Penn State University Park spends an average of $13 million a year on electricity. Without the cap, Miller said that number could increase by $9 million in 2009.

For more information and tips on how to reduce your energy use, visit

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Last Updated March 19, 2009