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.
Many people are aware that Iceland has the cleanest energy in the world by far. The island-nation generates 100% of its electricity from renewables such as hydroelectric and geothermal sources, and it’s also flirting with wind power. What those same people might not realize, however, is that this results in some of the cheapest electricity in the world.
An additional bill was passed in 1999 that helped further establish a competitive electricity market by creating a price floor to prevent established energy providers from underselling emerging providers. In 2002, Texas finalized deregulation when the Public Utility Commission gave ERCOT the responsibility of managing and monitoring the Texas electricity market. The market opened up to around 6 million Texas power customers.
In this free market competing electricity retailers buy electricity wholesale from private power generators to sell at retail to around 85% of Texas residents. The partnership between generators and retailers is governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which attempts to balance the power grid’s electricity supply and demand by purchasing small amounts of electricity at 15-minute intervals throughout the day.
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.

More than two dozen electric cooperatives provide power to rural customers and residents of many South Dakota towns. Each customer is a member and owner of the co-op. The business of the co-op is directed by its general manager and governed by a board of directors, elected by its membership. Three power cooperatives – Basin, East River and Rushmore – are generation and transmission cooperatives. These organizations provide electricity to their member co-ops that, in turn, deliver the power to their customers.


Electric companies in Maryland post their rates for residential customers on their web sites. See list of electric company web sites in the column at left. To find out about the rates offered by electricity suppliers in your area you will need to contact those suppliers directly. The Maryland Public Service Commission maintains a list of licensed electricity suppliers at: http://webapp.psc.state.md.us/intranet/supplierinfo/electricsupplier_new.cfm.

In this free market competing electricity retailers buy electricity wholesale from private power generators to sell at retail to around 85% of Texas residents. The partnership between generators and retailers is governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which attempts to balance the power grid’s electricity supply and demand by purchasing small amounts of electricity at 15-minute intervals throughout the day.


No worries. It’s always a good idea to shop for a new electricity plan when you are moving to see if there is a better deal on electricity available. But, if you are happy with your current electric rate, most electricity providers will gladly keep you as a customer and continue service under your current contract at your new apartment or house as long as you move within the same utility delivery area. Don’t worry about early termination fees. If you are moving, your electricity provider cannot charge you an early termination fee if you provide a valid proof of a change of address thanks to customer protection rules established by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
The consumer has the choice between buying from their local utility (Local Distribution Company - LDC) or from one of the deregulated suppliers. There is a large range of contract options from a variable price to 1,3 or 5 year fixed prices. Electricity provider switching is difficult once the consumer is in one of these contracts, unless they are close to the end of a fixed price contract. However, as of January 2010 there is a maximum termination penalty allowed.[2]

Given the wide selection of electricity plans available, how do renters choose the best electricity plan? The key to finding the best plan is to have an idea about how much electricity you use and select the contract length that is close to your rental contract term. Typical apartment electricity plans are best for 500 – 1000 kWh usage per month and 1 – 12 month contract term lengths. Enter your zip code above to search and compare apartment electricity plans with this criteria.


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”.
As a renter, you’re likely concerned about getting your electricity contract’s start and end dates to match your lease term as close as possible. In most cases, your electricity provider will offer flexible start dates and some even offer same-day connections. If you can’t line up your electricity contract exactly with your lease term, it’s okay. It’s better to choose an electricity plan with a slightly longer contract term than your apartment lease if necessary. If you move and provide proof of a change in address, your electricity provider cannot charge you an early termination fee.
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.
Maryland residents are now able to choose who supplies their electricity. (Customers of municipal electric systems and some rural cooperative systems are the exceptions - see "Areas not participating.") Your local utility, now called your electric company, will still deliver the electricity to your home, but you can choose another company to generate the electricity, if other companies are making an offer in your area.
In some deregulated markets, the local utility company can offer electric service at a standard service rate which is regulated by the state. In other deregulated markets, customers can receive electricity from a default electricity provider that may be related to their local utility. These are options for customers who don’t want to shop for an electricity plan and explore the possibility of a lower electricity bill.

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.

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