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.
Deregulation seeks to drive down costs and spur innovation by breaking up energy monopolies. In their place, two separate entities take care of 1) generation and 2) distribution. Electric Generation Suppliers (EGS) create electricity and set their own prices for consumers. Electric Distribution Companies (EDC), a.k.a., your local utility company, bring that electricity to your home.
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.
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.
In this free market competing electricity retailers buy electricity wholesale from private power generators to sell at retail to around 85% of Texas residents. The partnership between generators and retailers is governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which attempts to balance the power grid’s electricity supply and demand by purchasing small amounts of electricity at 15-minute intervals throughout the day.
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.
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.
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.
Utility companies are responsible for transmission and delivery of electricity even in energy deregulated parts of Texas and should be contacted in the event of a power outage. Your retail energy supplier may provide you competitive electric rates or exceptional customer service, but they cannot repair power lines or restore your service. In the case of an emergency, contact:
Gone are the days when you had to contact electric companies to discover their rates, and negotiate a better deal on your own. Today, Vault Electricity does the work for you, handling the entire process of finding the best Texas electricity rates and plans from providers that have a pedigree of business stability, customer service, eco-friendliness, and financial transparency. This allows you to shop for electricity in just a few minutes, right from your computer.
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.
Depending on the state where you live, you’ll get your electricity bill from your local electric utility or your electricity provider. Either way your electricity bill generally has two line items: supply and delivery. The supply charge is for the actual electricity used and this is paid to your electricity provider. The delivery charge is for the transmission and distribution of electricity and this is paid to your local electric utility. In most states you will receive these charges on one bill, and the company that collects your payment will make sure that the appropriate parties are paid for their services.
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.
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.
Texas currently produces and consumes more electricity than any other state in the country. This energy consumption is due to its size, but the ample land makes it a major producer of wind power – a renewable, or green, energy source. The environmentally friendly energy created by wind power is available to many Texas residents to supply the electricity in their home or business.