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.
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.

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.


Deregulation allows you to choose from a variety of retail electricity providers, much like you’d shop around for a telephone or internet provider. When choosing an electricity provider, the process is completely hassle-free. You will not have any service interruptions, your electricity will still be just as reliable as before, and your monthly bill will continue to arrive. If your power goes out, your utility will still be the one to call. The only change will be under the supply portion of you bill. There, you will see the provider you selected and the rate you approved.
Ameren Illinois is the only company that delivers electricity to Champaign residents (Ameren Illinois, 800-755-5000). However, there are many retail electric suppliers who supply electricity. Residents may choose to receive their supply from Ameren or another provider, residents are encouraged to research before choosing a supplier. Visit this page on the Ameren site for more details.
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.

A lot of these financial structures ultimately boil down to being a form of government guarantee, which means that they can’t be scaled up to “solve” countries’ power problems because the governments cannot carry all the liabilities. Countries try to introduce the private sector into power generation precisely to reduce such guarantees, which then end up returning through the back door in the form of government support.
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.
Switching electricity supplier could shave pounds off your bills. But it’s not always about how much hard cash you could save. You might be fed up with poor customer service, you might want greater visibility of your usage through an app or you might want to choose your supplier based on their green credentials, or whether they supply a smart meter.
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