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.
Electric utilities are responsible for the distribution, or delivery, of electricity to the customers who live in their service area. The electric utilities also employ the lineman that restore your power after a major weather event and repair the downed power lines and damaged poles. Every month you will see a delivery charge on your electricity bill. This is for the transmission and distribution of electricity to your home or business. The amount charged for the delivery of electricity is still regulated by your state’s public utility commission. These delivery rates are subject to change at least twice a year and they pay for the maintenance and operation of the poles and wires that serve your residence or business.
To keep prices competitive, Washington diversifies its energy portfolio. The greatest contributor is hydroelectric power, which generates close to 7,700 gigawatts per hour (GWh) annually. Other significant sources of electricity are nuclear (812 GWh), natural gas (290 GWh) and coal (192 GWh). Renewables, which account for 912 GWh, include wind, solar and geothermal. As a result, the state offers electricity at a 35 percent discount from the national average.
Even though customers in deregulated cities routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated cities like Houston and regulated cities like San Antonio have dwindled to the narrowest point ever to 8.8 percent. Back in 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.