Prior to electricity deregulation in select areas of the United States, the electricity that powered homes and businesses came from the utility company and customers could not compare electricity providers. With electricity deregulation continuing to expand and electricity providers in the mix, residents and businesses should be sure to understand where their electricity comes from, how it’s delivered, and how the cost is divided.
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.
Variable Rate: With a variable rate, you stand closer to the fire. Rather than keep your costs separate from market conditions, you experience the rise and fall of price alongside your provider. You profit when supply exceeds demand, but could pay through the nose if the electricity grid becomes overtaxed. That usually means a higher bill in the summer and winter (when demand is at its highest) and a lower one in the fall and spring. A variable rate plan is best for people interested in staying on top of market changes – when prices get too exorbitant, there’s no contract and no cancellation fee if you want to try a new provider.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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