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.
Since Ohio deregulated in 2001, 4.8 million Ohio electricity customers have been able to shop for their electricity. Of those, over 50% have switched electric suppliers and saved an estimated $15 billion since 2011. Depending on where you live in Ohio, there are multiple retail electric suppliers vying for your business. But in the world of electricity suppliers, as in other places, one size does not fit all.
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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.
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.
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All of Direct Energy’s offers include either a rewards program or a charitable donation, and the benefits get bigger the more electricity you use. Paying for electricity isn’t exactly the most fun thing you could spend your money on. If you are looking for a little sugar to help the medicine go down, Direct Energy has a dessert tray of options. Fair warning: They’re not quite as sweet as they look.
Just as you shop for other products and services, you may also be able to shop for an energy supplier. With choice, energy customers from large manufacturers to residential homeowners are able to shop for energy options from a diverse group of competitive suppliers certified by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). As more suppliers are offering their services in your area, you have the opportunity to choose the company that supplies the generation of your electricity and supplies your natural gas.
This company has more plan variety than any other we looked at, though most of them seem more flashy than functional. And some seem weirdly niche — like "Connect to Comfort," a 24-month plan that comes with a Hive Hub and a Hive Active Thermostat, smart home devices that allow you to control your heat and A/C via app. Like many of Direct Energy’s plans, how good of a deal it is depends on how closely its offers align with your established habits.
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.
If you live in the greater Houston area, there are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business. Many of these providers have websites that are confusing and difficult to navigate, their rates buried in misleading advertising and dense jargon. Who has the time to sort through and keep track of options across all these different sites?
You’ll also see a flat rate and a price per kWh rate for TDU or TDSP (which stand for Transmission and Distribution Utility or Transportation Distribution Service Provider). These are costs that your utility charges for delivering electricity and maintaining power lines. The costs are unique to your local utility and have nothing to do with your electricity provider.
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 ChooseEnergy.com featured suppliers with lower rates, including one that’s 18% cheaper and uses all green energy.
Still, we like that if you choose to re-up with FirstEnergy again at the end of your initial term, you won’t have to worry whether you’re enrolling at an expensive time of year. First, since it offers just two options, constant for years, its prices are set with the long haul in mind. Second, since the electricity grid in Pennsylvania is more taxed during winter than any other season (space heating accounts for 50 percent of household electricity consumption in PA; air conditioning just three percent), signing up in summer means prices won’t be temporarily inflated.
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.
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.