Electricity providers are companies that purchase wholesale electricity from electricity generators and sell it at a retail level to the general public. They are also responsible for having that electricity delivered to the appropriate local utility company that serves their customers. State’s label electricity providers with different names such as, REPs (Retail Electric Providers), CRES (Competitive Retail Electric Service providers), or licensed electric suppliers, to name a few.
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.
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On the one hand, long-term, fixed-rate (contract) plans offer stability in pricing. If energy supply costs suddenly go up in your area, you won’t be left paying more than what you bargained for. You’ll have peace-of-mind. If you want to switch out of your contract before it ends with a lower cost plan, you’ll likely face a cancellation fee (early termination fee).
An additional bill was passed in 1999 that helped further establish a competitive electricity market by creating a price floor to prevent established energy providers from underselling emerging providers. In 2002, Texas finalized deregulation when the Public Utility Commission gave ERCOT the responsibility of managing and monitoring the Texas electricity market. The market opened up to around 6 million Texas power customers.
As a renter, you’re likely concerned about getting your electricity contract’s start and end dates to match your lease term as close as possible. In most cases, your electricity provider will offer flexible start dates and some even offer same-day connections. If you can’t line up your electricity contract exactly with your lease term, it’s okay. It’s better to choose an electricity plan with a slightly longer contract term than your apartment lease if necessary. If you move and provide proof of a change in address, your electricity provider cannot charge you an early termination fee.
FirstEnergy’s online shopping experience is woefully outdated, which makes it harder than usual to get to the fine print. You’ll need to take the first step of signing up — follow the Enroll Now! Link — to get “Terms and Conditions” to appear. The website also pays the typical lip service to the green movement, but FirstEnergy plants generate over 95 percent of the company’s total electricity from conventional fuels.
When it comes to the electricity itself, there is no difference at all. A cheap electric supply is the same electricity, it's simply provided by a new supplier (unless you opt for green energy - more on that here). As suppliers buy and generate different sets of energy they also have different prices. What's more, you might be on a tariff that is simply more expensive, such as a standard tariff. If you decide to switch electricity don't equate a lower price with worse service.
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.
One of the most common sticking points for electricity customers is what, exactly, the difference is between an electricity provider (also called REP, CRES, or electric supplier) and an electric utility (also called a TDSP, TDU, or EDU). They’re both vital to the success of electricity deregulation, but they play very different roles. Understanding how they fit together can make a big difference in your overall confidence as an electricity customer trying to shop for the best electricity plan.
In Texas' deregulated energy market, customers must pick their own electricity provider, all of which offer different rates per hour of power usage. You can shop for other power plans on the state-run website, www.powertochoose.org, or try an alternative website, like www.texaspowerguide.com to help find the cheapest plan. Keep in mind that many retail electricity contracts carry penalties for early termination.
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.