Technology that now allows smaller quantities of power to be generated closer to the end-users at prices not too much higher than grid-based power are undermining those economies of scale. More efficient turbines, for example, allow large power users like cement plants and petrochemical factories to come off the grid. Today the limiting factor for large companies to come off the grid often isn’t the efficiency of the power generation technology, but the lack of easy availability of fuel, such as gas or coal to power these turbines Even this problem is being solved by innovations like mini-liquefied natural gas projects.
TDSPs or EDUs are the companies and people who own and maintain utility poles and power lines. They are the ones that you call when your power goes out. These utility companies are responsible for the physical delivery of electricity to your home or business. Before deregulation, everyone was required to buy their electricity from their local utility company. With deregulation, the supply of electricity was opened to competition while the delivery of electricity continues to be regulated by the state’s public utility commission.
Ironically, technology can make the utilities’ problem worse, not better—at least in the short term. In the past, grids were developed because it was cheaper to generate large quantities of power and distribute it over wide distances, rather then generate smaller quantities closer to the place of use. It is for this reason that electricity is seen as a business that benefits from “economies of scale”.
However, a few of the countries on the chart do have pricey electricity. Nuclear power accounts for close to three-quarters of France’s energy, and yet its electricity is on average $0.07 cents per kWh more expensive than that of the U.S. Again, diversification is key. Germany, which already has costly electricity, will soon see its prices soar even higher once it decommissions its nine currently operating nuclear plants, a gargantuan, politically motivated project that’s scheduled to be completed by 2022.
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.
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).
Electricity is deregulated in two Canadian provinces: Ontario and Alberta. Both markets showed price spikes in the first year of dereguation, but then settled down into a volatile but reasonably stable environment. Alberta's market is dominated by fossil fuel generation and as such reacts more closely to the price of natural gas. Ontario's generation mix is about 50% nuclear.
If you would rather have a steady rate and not think about twice about starting a load of laundry at 6:30pm versus 7:30pm, Direct Energy’s standard, 12-month, fixed-rate plan Live Brighter runs at an affordable 7.99 cents per kWh. Again, using 1,000 kWh per month would add up to a yearly total of $958.80 — higher than both Free Nights and Free Weekends, but also a lot simpler.
Landsvirkun, Iceland’s national power company, offers electricity to buyers for as low as $0.043 per kWh, which is nearly on par with what can be found in Washington State. Coupled with 20% corporate tax, the nation’s low energy prices have attracted not just data centers, methanol producers, silicon metal producers but also aluminum companies—which, again, consume massive amounts of electricity.
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