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    Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission gave the go ahead to PPL to look into adding a distribution system improvement charge (DSIC) to customer bills starting in 2014. The charge would affect both shopping and non-shopping customers since the charge is distribution-related.

    The new fee will allow PPL to charge as much as 5% more on the distribution and transmission portion of customers' bills and will allow PPL to make up for past years' infrastructure improvements more quickly. The request isn't surprising, since it was only last year when the state General Assembly passed a law allowing for utilities to impose DSIC charges.

    PPL customers already began seeing higher charges on their bills starting January 1. While distribution rates for residentialcustomersactually went down from 2.55 cents/kWh to 2.51 cents/kWh, the flat monthly customer fee increased by 62% – from $8.75 to $14.09. Overall, the average residential electric customer's bill increased by 3%.

    While small increases in charges are inevitable, they can quickly add up. If the DSIC is approved at the full 5%, the average residential customer's distribution and transmission portion of their bill (which is always charged by the utility) would increase by 30% from December 2012. Holding PPL's current residential supply rate constant at 7.544 cents/kWh, the average residential customer using 500 kWhs would see an 11% increase from December 2012 on their total bill, not including taxes and other fees.

    The formal request for the new charge is expected to be submitted to the Public Utility Commission this week. If approved, the new charges will not appear on customer bills until January 2014.

    While PPL customers can't avoid the increase in charges, they can make up for losses by shopping for their supply portion of their electric bill. Many providers offer rates as much as 15% or more below the utility's rate, called the Price-to-Compare. You can compare providers by using our free Compare & Switch tool at the top of this page.