Technology also provides a long-term answer, even if it contributes to the problem in the short-term, as described earlier. As renewable power and storage technologies become cheaper and more efficient they will gradually allow for the implementation of cheaper mini-grids and smart grids, increasingly within the reach of the really poor, even in urban areas. Perhaps, grids will one day become marketplaces allowing people to sell excess power from their solar installations to those who have a need for power at that time. Prices can be set dynamically to allow supply to match demand.
Ironically, technology can make the utilities’ problem worse, not better—at least in the short term. In the past, grids were developed because it was cheaper to generate large quantities of power and distribute it over wide distances, rather then generate smaller quantities closer to the place of use. It is for this reason that electricity is seen as a business that benefits from “economies of scale”.
Aided by the fact that the Evergreen State doesn’t collect a corporate income tax, cheap power has attracted industries that tend to consume biblical amounts of electricity, from aircraft production to software development to aluminum refining. Major companies in these spaces that are either headquartered or maintain a significant presence in the state include Microsoft , Amazon.com , Expedia .com and Boeing.
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.
Consumers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi were promised bargains on electricity when the Texas Legislature deregulated the electricity market. But 16 years later they're still paying more for electricity than their counterparts in cities Texas lawmakers exempted from deregulation such as Austin and San Antonio, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power which analyzed federal electricity pricing data.
In deregulated markets such as Texas and Maryland, the state government may require the incumbent utility energy provider to allow for unlimited competition within the marketplace, where the consumer is free to choose any electricity provider. Electricity provider switching is only practical if a customer is either buying from a utility or is at the end of a fixed-price contract with a provider.
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.
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.
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