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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.
Maryland residents are now able to choose who supplies their electricity. (Customers of municipal electric systems and some rural cooperative systems are the exceptions - see "Areas not participating.") Your local utility, now called your electric company, will still deliver the electricity to your home, but you can choose another company to generate the electricity, if other companies are making an offer in your area.
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.
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.
It all starts with the power generators – the companies who produce electricity to sell on the wholesale market. The electricity providers purchase the rights to large volumes of this electricity from the generators on the wholesale market and then turn around and sell it to their retail customers. The electricity providers market the sale of electricity to the public through various offerings of electricity plans that include everything from classic fixed-rate electricity, to 100% green electricity, to bundled products that have incentives such as a Nest Learning Thermostat™ or Visa gift cards.