As you shop, you’ll see the rates advertised in terms of kilowatts per hour (kWh) — the energy used to power 1,000 watts for one hour. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price per kWh for electricity in Pennsylvania is 14.52 cents, while the Public Utility Commission's “price to compare” currently hovers around 8.0 cents. Clearly, there’s a lot of price variety out there. And, given the hundreds of providers doing business in Pennsylvania, exploring electricity options can be pretty toilsome.
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.
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.
As an Exelon company, Constellation Energy is part of one of the biggest — and historically most polluting — corporations in North America. Given Exelon’s vast production energy, ranking on the PERI Toxic 100 list is perhaps not that surprising. The good news is that Exelon is upfront about its room for eco-friendly improvement and make it easy for Constellation customers to go green, too.
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.
In some deregulated markets, the local utility company can offer electric service at a standard service rate which is regulated by the state. In other deregulated markets, customers can receive electricity from a default electricity provider that may be related to their local utility. These are options for customers who don’t want to shop for an electricity plan and explore the possibility of a lower electricity bill.
Just be sure you know what you’re signing up for. Just Energy doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to transparency. In recent years, the Massachusetts Attorney General ordered the company to pay $4 million in restitution to customers who were charged exorbitant rates and cancellation fees that did not appear in Just Energy’s advertising. As part of the settlement, Just Energy agreed to run all its advertising past an independent monitor.
The PUC’s mission is to protect customers, foster competition, and promote high-quality infrastructure. In addition to regulating the states electric utilities and implementing legislation, the PUC offers Texas residents assistance in resolving consumer complaints. If you have a complaint with your electricity company you can go to the official PUC website and file an informal complaint.
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.
The North Texas city of Wichita Falls is home to Midwestern State University, Sheppard Air Force Base, Lake Wichita and the power to choose. Texas residents who call the city home are able to shop for their electricity in Wichita Falls, meaning that they get to choose the energy plan they want from available retailers. Remember to explore all your options. If you need help deciding on an electric supply plan, call ChooseTexasPower.org.
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.
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.