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.
As a renter, it’s important to know approximately how much electricity you will use each month in order to get the best deal on electricity. Some electricity plans are cheaper for lower energy usage customers, while other plans are designed with high usage customers in mind. If you’re just moving into an apartment, ask your leasing agent to provide you with historic kWh usage information for your specific unit if possible.
Over a year, you could save nearly $100 by choosing the green plan. But it’s important to note that Constellation’s attractive initial rates will very likely not be around for a second year. According to the customer reviews on Consumer Affairs, this new contract usually jacks up the price. It offers great rates for new customers, but it may not be worth it to stick with them for more than an initial contract.
Variable rate plans are always month-to-month, save for three-month intro specials in which your rate stays the same for those early months. Fixed rate plans, on the other hand, are available for periods ranging from six to 36 months. The contract lengths, and how that length influences the price per kWh rate, varies enormously from company to company. Some companies offer lower rates when you enroll for longer periods. Others raise the rate slightly. The competing rationale: You will be paying them for longer so you get a break, or you have that price locked in when energy rates inevitably rise. One rule of thumb — the longer the contract, the higher the cancellation fee.
As the leading producer of nuclear energy, the U.S. has some of the world’s cheapest electricity—which for the industrial sector averages between 6.75 and 9.33 cents per kWh. These prices are either trumped or competitive with other nuclear power-producing countries such as Russia ($0.11 cents per kWh), Canada ($0.10) and China ($0.08). India, which doesn't quite make it into the top 10, generates 30 billion kWh annually at an average of $0.08 cents per kWh.
Ironically, technology can make the utilities’ problem worse, not better—at least in the short term. In the past, grids were developed because it was cheaper to generate large quantities of power and distribute it over wide distances, rather then generate smaller quantities closer to the place of use. It is for this reason that electricity is seen as a business that benefits from “economies of scale”.