On the other hand, month-to-month variable rate (no-contract) plans don’t have cancellation fees. You won’t be penalized if you find a better deal elsewhere and want to make another switch. And, you won’t be stuck paying more than you should be if the market rate for electricity trends down. But, if it goes up, you’ll be paying more than your in-contract neighbors, and you’ll likely want to shop around again for a better deal.
Green Mountain has been behind massive green power projects like supplying the Empire State Building with renewably-offset power, and its nonprofit organization Sun Club provides grants for environmental projects, like Urban REAP (Urban Renewable Energy and Agriculture Project), an innovative community greenhouse that uses solar power, aquaponics, and composting.
We’ve done some of the work for you. We homed in on five of the biggest electric companies in Pennsylvania: Constellation Energy, Direct Energy, FirstEnergy Solutions, Green Mountain Energy, and Just Energy. We compared their plans, rates, special offers, and philanthropies, then dug into the contract fine print to uncover sneaky fees and the truth about discounts. Because most providers offer a range of options, we also looked at the companies behind the plans — paying attention to their corporate impact, customer service reputation, and customer resources in particular.
Canadian electricity is cheap at 10 US cents per kilowatt hour, which is reflected in their high average electricity usage. US electricity prices at 0.12 $/kWh are also quite cheap internationally. In India and China they are very cheap. The UK is in the middle at 20 cents. It’s relatively expensive globally but not too bad for Europe, where most countries pay a high share of tax on their power.
Electric utilities are responsible for the distribution, or delivery, of electricity to the customers who live in their service area. The electric utilities also employ the lineman that restore your power after a major weather event and repair the downed power lines and damaged poles. Every month you will see a delivery charge on your electricity bill. This is for the transmission and distribution of electricity to your home or business. The amount charged for the delivery of electricity is still regulated by your state’s public utility commission. These delivery rates are subject to change at least twice a year and they pay for the maintenance and operation of the poles and wires that serve your residence or business.
The Texas Senate Bill 7, passed in 2002, gave 5.6 million Texans the power to choose a retail electric provider (REP) to supply electricity to their home or business. This bill facilitated a competitive energy marketplace that 85 percent of Texans can capitalize on today. Energy choice is available to residents in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth as well as other cities in Texas.
It all starts with the power generators – the companies who produce electricity to sell on the wholesale market. The electricity providers purchase the rights to large volumes of this electricity from the generators on the wholesale market and then turn around and sell it to their retail customers. The electricity providers market the sale of electricity to the public through various offerings of electricity plans that include everything from classic fixed-rate electricity, to 100% green electricity, to bundled products that have incentives such as a Nest Learning Thermostat™ or Visa gift cards.
Electricity is deregulated in two Canadian provinces: Ontario and Alberta. Both markets showed price spikes in the first year of dereguation, but then settled down into a volatile but reasonably stable environment. Alberta's market is dominated by fossil fuel generation and as such reacts more closely to the price of natural gas. Ontario's generation mix is about 50% nuclear.
Fixed-rate supply plans offer price-protected supply rates for the length of a term agreement. The price per kilowatt hour (kWh) will remain the same throughout your term, even if the market price fluctuates. A fixed-rate supply plan can range from three months to five years, so it’s important to find the term length that works best for your situation.
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Deregulation seeks to drive down costs and spur innovation by breaking up energy monopolies. In their place, two separate entities take care of 1) generation and 2) distribution. Electric Generation Suppliers (EGS) create electricity and set their own prices for consumers. Electric Distribution Companies (EDC), a.k.a., your local utility company, bring that electricity to your home.
Take your time to check out offers. You may receive offers from electricity suppliers through direct mail, telemarketing, advertising, and over the Internet. Read offers carefully and ask the supplier questions. You may have to commit to a fixed-term contract when you sign up with an electricity supplier. Therefore, be sure you like the terms of the offer. Questions to ask a supplier:
Know that Green Mountain’s cheapest advertised plans are all variable rate plans. “Pollution Free,” “Pollution Free Try 3,” or “SolarSPARC 10 Try 3” all advertise a great initial rate — a full cent below Pennsylvania’s 8.49 cent “price to compare” — but its variable rates means the company can raise them at any time. The two “Try 3” plans just lock in the low introductory rate for three months instead of one. The flipside of fixed rate: Should prices fall, you’ll be locked into a contract with a constant, elevated rate for two more months.
Electricity providers are companies that purchase wholesale electricity from electricity generators and sell it at a retail level to the general public. They are also responsible for having that electricity delivered to the appropriate local utility company that serves their customers. State’s label electricity providers with different names such as, REPs (Retail Electric Providers), CRES (Competitive Retail Electric Service providers), or licensed electric suppliers, to name a few.
Twenty-nine states have deregulated electricity, natural gas or both. That allows you to shop for the supply portion of your bill from alternative providers who may offer rates lower than the default supplier – usually a utility. Delivery services and billing will remain the responsibility of the local utility as they own the power lines and wires that keep the lights on.
As of April 2014, 16 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have deregulated electricity markets. Along with aforementioned Maryland and Texas, electricity deregulation is current in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Seven additional U.S. states began the process of electricity deregulation but have suspended efforts: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wyoming.
But competition didn't necessarily end up cutting prices, according to the report. One contributing factor is confusion among customers as they try to choose among scores of retail electricity providers and the overwhelming variation of plans, leading many to just stick with familiar companies rather than look for better deals, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power .