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).
That means that customers in Houston paid an average of $5,500 more for electricity over a 14-year time span beginning in 2002, according to the group that buys electricity on behalf of municipal governments in Texas. The calculation, which uses data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, assumes monthly electricity use of 1,300 kilowatt hours.
According to a 2016 J.D. Power national report, switching from the utility company to an REP is not as attractive as it once was. Deregulated markets aim to drive down costs and encourage innovation but has really only succeeded in the second — the price gap between utility rates and retail rates has actually been closing. But deregulation has been successful in championing green energy and improving customer service. This improvement shows up in some impressively high J.D. Power ratings.
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.
Here’s something to watch out for: Constellation automatically re-ups your contract when your present contract expires, no matter which plan you choose. It’ll send you two notifications prior to re-enrollment, but if you miss those prompts, you have just until the first meter read of your new contract to exit it. After that, the $150 termination fee will apply. Constellation Energy and Just Energy are the only two companies in our lineup with this policy. The others allow your service to lapse back to your utility company if you don’t personally re-enroll.
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Usually, fixed-rate renewable-energy plans are among the most expensive options. But in our research, we found Constellation’s green plan rates were comparable to its non-green versions. For example, out of two otherwise identical fixed-rate, 12-month plans from Constellation — “12 Month Fixed Rate 100% Green” and “12 Month Fixed Rate” — it’s the renewable version that currently costs less.
Technology also provides a long-term answer, even if it contributes to the problem in the short-term, as described earlier. As renewable power and storage technologies become cheaper and more efficient they will gradually allow for the implementation of cheaper mini-grids and smart grids, increasingly within the reach of the really poor, even in urban areas. Perhaps, grids will one day become marketplaces allowing people to sell excess power from their solar installations to those who have a need for power at that time. Prices can be set dynamically to allow supply to match demand.