If you live in the greater Houston area, there are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business. Many of these providers have websites that are confusing and difficult to navigate, their rates buried in misleading advertising and dense jargon. Who has the time to sort through and keep track of options across all these different sites?
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.
The problem is that across Africa, the vast majority of the power utilities are effectively bankrupt. Another World Bank study (pdf) on African Utilities shows that only two of the 39 African utilities surveyed, in the Seychelles and Uganda, were able to generate enough cash to cover both their operating costs and capital expenditures necessary to invest in the maintenance and expansion of the grid. In fact, only 19 of the 39 companies were able to generate enough cash to cover their day-to-day operating costs. It means the rest were not even able to pay everyday costs, like salaries, in full.
Electric companies in Maryland post their rates for residential customers on their web sites. See list of electric company web sites in the column at left. To find out about the rates offered by electricity suppliers in your area you will need to contact those suppliers directly. The Maryland Public Service Commission maintains a list of licensed electricity suppliers at: http://webapp.psc.state.md.us/intranet/supplierinfo/electricsupplier_new.cfm.
But, again, the concept isn’t difficult. Let’s use the city of Joliet as an example. Joliet’s traditional utility for the 60435 area code is Commonwealth Edison. As of late February, its price to compare is 7.195 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh); at this writing, four plans from ChooseEnergy.com featured suppliers with lower rates, including one that’s 18% cheaper and uses all green energy.

The consumer has the choice between buying from their local utility (Local Distribution Company - LDC) or from one of the deregulated suppliers. There is a large range of contract options from a variable price to 1,3 or 5 year fixed prices. Electricity provider switching is difficult once the consumer is in one of these contracts, unless they are close to the end of a fixed price contract. However, as of January 2010 there is a maximum termination penalty allowed.[2]
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.[1]

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.
The consumer has the choice between buying from their local utility (Local Distribution Company - LDC) or from one of the deregulated suppliers. There is a large range of contract options from a variable price to 1,3 or 5 year fixed prices. Electricity provider switching is difficult once the consumer is in one of these contracts, unless they are close to the end of a fixed price contract. However, as of January 2010 there is a maximum termination penalty allowed.[2]
Technology that now allows smaller quantities of power to be generated closer to the end-users at prices not too much higher than grid-based power are undermining those economies of scale. More efficient turbines, for example, allow large power users like cement plants and petrochemical factories to come off the grid. Today the limiting factor for large companies to come off the grid often isn’t the efficiency of the power generation technology, but the lack of easy availability of fuel, such as gas or coal to power these turbines Even this problem is being solved by innovations like mini-liquefied natural gas projects.
That means that customers in Houston paid an average of $5,500 more for electricity over a 14-year time span beginning in 2002, according to the group that buys electricity on behalf of municipal governments in Texas. The calculation, which uses data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, assumes monthly electricity use of 1,300 kilowatt hours.

It’s worth noting that you can switch for free with no exit fee 42-49 days before the end of your contract. Under Ofgem’s standards of conduct, energy firms have to give you between 42 and 49 days’ notice of your tariff ending. You can use this time to decide whether to stick with them, or switch. If you decide to switch, you won’t be charged an exit fee.
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