One of the most common sticking points for electricity customers is what, exactly, the difference is between an electricity provider (also called REP, CRES, or electric supplier) and an electric utility (also called a TDSP, TDU, or EDU). They’re both vital to the success of electricity deregulation, but they play very different roles. Understanding how they fit together can make a big difference in your overall confidence as an electricity customer trying to shop for the best electricity plan.

Of FirstEnergy’s two plans, “Residential Fixed Price” (July 2019) and “Residential Fixed Price” (July 2020), the longer term contract comes with a reduced rate, per usual. If you’re hesitant to enter into a lengthy commitment because you’re planning to move within the next year or two, it’s nice to know that FirstEnergy builds a moving loophole into its cancellation policy. If you’re changing addresses and FirstEnergy does not service your new neighborhood, it doesn’t levy a cancellation fee. Opting out for any other reason comes with a $50 fee, cheaper than any other flat-rate cancellation fee we’ve seen. In fact, it might still be cheaper to go with the longer contract if you aren’t sure when you’ll move, or whether you can take your FirstEnergy service with you.
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.
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?
Customers can find deals in competitive electricity markets if they take the time and effort to look at web sites such as powertochoose.org, the official comparison shopping site of the Public Utility Commission. The study cited a PUC survey of retail electricity offerings in Houston that showed nine deals in March that were lower than the regulated price of electricity in San Antonio.
A lot of these financial structures ultimately boil down to being a form of government guarantee, which means that they can’t be scaled up to “solve” countries’ power problems because the governments cannot carry all the liabilities. Countries try to introduce the private sector into power generation precisely to reduce such guarantees, which then end up returning through the back door in the form of government support.
Generally, the generation of electricity is unrelated to anything on your bill. Power plant companies generate electricity and sell it to utilities as well as retail electricity providers in deregulated areas. The electricity is then resold to you, the customer. Transmission and distribution is taken care of and charged to you by your utility, regardless of what company supplies the electricity. These charges are separate from the supply portion of your bill.
In Pennsylvania, you can choose from the EGSs operating in your area, or stay on with your default provider — your EDC. Currently, less than half of all Pennsylvania’s residential customers have made the switch. If you’re among that number, moving to an EGS could get you cheaper rates, better rewards, and more say in what fuels generate your electricity. Whichever you choose, your electricity will get to you just the same because the EDC is always responsible for delivery.
Variable Rate: With a variable rate, you stand closer to the fire. Rather than keep your costs separate from market conditions, you experience the rise and fall of price alongside your provider. You profit when supply exceeds demand, but could pay through the nose if the electricity grid becomes overtaxed. That usually means a higher bill in the summer and winter (when demand is at its highest) and a lower one in the fall and spring. A variable rate plan is best for people interested in staying on top of market changes – when prices get too exorbitant, there’s no contract and no cancellation fee if you want to try a new provider.
The takeaway here is simple. As is the case in Washington and Iceland, if a state or country has an abundance of natural resources, it should take advantage of them to drive down the price of a kWh to attract businesses. Diversification is especially essential where possible. Without businesses and industries paying to draw power from the electrical grid, the local economy stagnates.
Searching for a new McAllen electric supply rate might seem like an intimidating task to some energy users. However, electric choice is an advantage that isn't offered to most residents and business owners in the United States. McAllen residents have the opportunity to make their electricity supply shopping process much simpler by establishing their home's energy needs first.
The Virgin Islands, in fact, has some of the world’s most expensive electricity precisely because it doesn't have the means to diversify its energy portfolio. The territory depends entirely on imported crude oil to run its petroleum power plants, and as a result, its energy goes for between 50.8 and 54.8 cents per kWh as of last year. This business-repelling price far exceeds that of countries whose energy is considered steep compared to the U.S. average, namely, Denmark ($0.41 cents per kWh), Germany ($0.35), Spain ($0.30), Australia ($0.29) and Italy ($0.28). This year the Virgin Islands has tried to reel in businesses with substantial tax breaks, but the savings might not be enough to offset the eye-popping electricity bill.
While there is a very strong argument for providing cheap, subsidized power for the poorest in society, this should be done in a way that limits subsidies to the really deserving and the system as a whole needs to be able to charge tariffs that on average cover all costs. If this doesn’t happen then all manner of bad things will follow. As you might guess prices have been set too low by African governments. These subsidies have also been made too widely available, benefitting the elite and middle classes more than the poor (who, not having good access to the grid in the first place, don’t have ready access to these subsidies).

Multi-year electricity contracts are not unusual; this method of structuring customer timelines is. Our guess: It’s a holdover style of billing from FirstEnergy’s involvement with governmental aggregations — municipal groups that get together and buy their energy as a community. Rather than have the option of a long term or short term plan, consumers are forced to take what’s available to them at the time.
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.
All of Direct Energy’s offers include either a rewards program or a charitable donation, and the benefits get bigger the more electricity you use. Paying for electricity isn’t exactly the most fun thing you could spend your money on. If you are looking for a little sugar to help the medicine go down, Direct Energy has a dessert tray of options. Fair warning: They’re not quite as sweet as they look.
Even though customers in deregulated Texas markets routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated and regulated market has shrunk to 8.8 percent. In 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
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