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.
As the third-largest coal-producing state in the nation, a sizable portion of everyone’s electricity comes from coal, regardless of the plan type you choose. But times are changing: Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requires that 18 percent of all electricity sold by 2021 be sourced from renewable energy. The state subsidizes the increase of renewable energy, and by opting for a green plan, your electricity payments do the same.
Power generation projects, which have to sell their power to these bankrupt utilities, require creative financing structures to get around these problems. In a bid to reduce their risk when financing these projects, bankers employ financial tools like put call options agreement or World Bank partial risk guarantees. The problem is these tools add complexity and cost which end up being passed on to the end-user or worsen the financial state of the power utility.
But competition didn't necessarily end up cutting prices, according to the report. One contributing factor is confusion among customers as they try to choose among scores of retail electricity providers and the overwhelming variation of plans, leading many to just stick with familiar companies rather than look for better deals, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power .
Generation / supply price: What you pay. Unlike other states, Pennsylvania keeps cost per kWh easy to understand. Other states muddy the waters by including fees and discounts applied according to usage amounts in the quoted rate. PA companies show you you one steady rate. If you’re looking at a variable plan, this cost will reflect your first month only. If it is a special introductory rate, they’ll tell you how long it lasts.
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.
The problem is that across Africa, the vast majority of the power utilities are effectively bankrupt. Another World Bank study (pdf) on African Utilities shows that only two of the 39 African utilities surveyed, in the Seychelles and Uganda, were able to generate enough cash to cover both their operating costs and capital expenditures necessary to invest in the maintenance and expansion of the grid. In fact, only 19 of the 39 companies were able to generate enough cash to cover their day-to-day operating costs. It means the rest were not even able to pay everyday costs, like salaries, in full.
Twenty-nine states have deregulated electricity, natural gas or both. That allows you to shop for the supply portion of your bill from alternative providers who may offer rates lower than the default supplier – usually a utility. Delivery services and billing will remain the responsibility of the local utility as they own the power lines and wires that keep the lights on.
In Pennsylvania, you can choose from the EGSs operating in your area, or stay on with your default provider — your EDC. Currently, less than half of all Pennsylvania’s residential customers have made the switch. If you’re among that number, moving to an EGS could get you cheaper rates, better rewards, and more say in what fuels generate your electricity. Whichever you choose, your electricity will get to you just the same because the EDC is always responsible for delivery.
Variable rate plans are always month-to-month, save for three-month intro specials in which your rate stays the same for those early months. Fixed rate plans, on the other hand, are available for periods ranging from six to 36 months. The contract lengths, and how that length influences the price per kWh rate, varies enormously from company to company. Some companies offer lower rates when you enroll for longer periods. Others raise the rate slightly. The competing rationale: You will be paying them for longer so you get a break, or you have that price locked in when energy rates inevitably rise. One rule of thumb — the longer the contract, the higher the cancellation fee.