The consumer has the choice between buying from their local utility (Local Distribution Company - LDC) or from one of the deregulated suppliers. There is a large range of contract options from a variable price to 1,3 or 5 year fixed prices. Electricity provider switching is difficult once the consumer is in one of these contracts, unless they are close to the end of a fixed price contract. However, as of January 2010 there is a maximum termination penalty allowed.[2]
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.
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.
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 featured suppliers with lower rates, including one that’s 18% cheaper and uses all green energy.
Residents and businesses that pay directly for their electricity (ratepayers) can use Energy Choice DC to learn more about their purchasing options and the companies that provide electricity aggregation services in the District. Ratepayers connect with a broker who will collect necessary information from them and use that information to seek competitive pricing on electricity, including options for conventional electricity and electricity generated from renewable sources. The broker then presents the negotiated rate to ratepayers, who sign a contract with the selected third-party supplier, for a term of one to three years, and pay a monthly electricity bill based on a consistent rate during that period.
Canadian electricity is cheap at 10 US cents per kilowatt hour, which is reflected in their high average electricity usage. US electricity prices at 0.12 $/kWh are also quite cheap internationally. In India and China they are very cheap. The UK is in the middle at 20 cents. It’s relatively expensive globally but not too bad for Europe, where most countries pay a high share of tax on their power.
An ILEC is a telephone company that was providing local service when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted. Examples of ILECs serving South Dakota are Golden West Telecommunications, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority and Beresford Municipal Telephone Company. See a complete list of ILEC companies (18 KB). Some companies, such as Qwest, Midstate Communications and Knology, can be both an ILEC and a CLEC (see below) in different service areas.
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.
Take your time to check out offers. You may receive offers from electricity suppliers through direct mail, telemarketing, advertising, and over the Internet. Read offers carefully and ask the supplier questions. You may have to commit to a fixed-term contract when you sign up with an electricity supplier. Therefore, be sure you like the terms of the offer. Questions to ask a supplier:
Around 85% of Texas residents must choose an electricity provider. Utility companies transmit and distribute electricity to customers. But that electricity doesn’t come from a utility—it comes from companies known as Retail Electric Providers. These providers offer competitive plans based on electricity pricing, term length, renewable sourcing and more.
Prior to electricity deregulation, power was supplied by regional utility monopolies that could own and operate all three parts of electric service. In response to a growing demand for competition in the industry, spurred by the success of deregulation in the airline and telecommunications industries, Congress passed the National Energy Policy Act in 1992 which created wholesale electric markets that allow for open access of generation.
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.