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.
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 .
In some states, utilities can also generate and sell electricity, but customers aren’t forced to buy the electricity from the utility company. They may choose from either the utility or available electricity providers. Before signing up for electricity service, we recommend checking the local utility’s electricity supply rate by checking their rates online or contacting them directly.
Just as you shop for other products and services, you may also be able to shop for an energy supplier. With choice, energy customers from large manufacturers to residential homeowners are able to shop for energy options from a diverse group of competitive suppliers certified by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). As more suppliers are offering their services in your area, you have the opportunity to choose the company that supplies the generation of your electricity and supplies your natural gas.
Most of Direct Energy’s plans allow you to earn Plenti points — you get 1,000 as soon as you sign up. That initial windfall is about as good as it gets. You keep accumulating rewards with every payment, but just one point for every dollar you spend on supply charges (what you pay to Direct Energy vs. your EDC — so about two-thirds of your total bill). A Plenti point equates to about one cent, so that 1,000 point bonus works out to $10 when you cash it in with a Plenti merchant (Rite Aid, Macy’s, etc.) You’d have to spend a further $1,000 in supply charges before making off with another $10.00 in Plenti points.
Just as impressive: Its overall J.D. Power score for customer satisfaction. The 1,000 point score considers price, communications, corporate citizenship, enrollment and renewal, and customer service. At 709, Green Mountain Energy scored the highest of all Pennsylvania companies, well above the 669 state average, and a solid 20 points ahead of the next closest provider we looked at — Constellation.
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.
Ultimately, the main difference between an electricity provider and an electric utility comes down to what they service and how. Electricity providers deal with purchasing and marketing electricity to customers. Electric utilities handle the poles and wires that service your home. Separating these roles means customers can shop for a competitive electricity rate and still receive reliable electric service.
Usually, fixed-rate renewable-energy plans are among the most expensive options. But in our research, we found Constellation’s green plan rates were comparable to its non-green versions. For example, out of two otherwise identical fixed-rate, 12-month plans from Constellation — “12 Month Fixed Rate 100% Green” and “12 Month Fixed Rate” — it’s the renewable version that currently costs less.
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.
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.