Consumers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi were promised bargains on electricity when the Texas Legislature deregulated the electricity market. But 16 years later they're still paying more for electricity than their counterparts in cities Texas lawmakers exempted from deregulation such as Austin and San Antonio, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power which analyzed federal electricity pricing data.
A lot of these financial structures ultimately boil down to being a form of government guarantee, which means that they can’t be scaled up to “solve” countries’ power problems because the governments cannot carry all the liabilities. Countries try to introduce the private sector into power generation precisely to reduce such guarantees, which then end up returning through the back door in the form of government support.
The takeaway here is simple. As is the case in Washington and Iceland, if a state or country has an abundance of natural resources, it should take advantage of them to drive down the price of a kWh to attract businesses. Diversification is especially essential where possible. Without businesses and industries paying to draw power from the electrical grid, the local economy stagnates.
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.
Electric utilities are responsible for the distribution, or delivery, of electricity to the customers who live in their service area. The electric utilities also employ the lineman that restore your power after a major weather event and repair the downed power lines and damaged poles. Every month you will see a delivery charge on your electricity bill. This is for the transmission and distribution of electricity to your home or business. The amount charged for the delivery of electricity is still regulated by your state’s public utility commission. These delivery rates are subject to change at least twice a year and they pay for the maintenance and operation of the poles and wires that serve your residence or business.
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”.
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.
In deregulated markets such as Texas and Maryland, the state government may require the incumbent utility energy provider to allow for unlimited competition within the marketplace, where the consumer is free to choose any electricity provider. Electricity provider switching is only practical if a customer is either buying from a utility or is at the end of a fixed-price contract with a provider.
Why are so many African power utilities effectively bankrupt? For one thing, they are incredibly inefficient. Efficiency can be improved by proper metering, investing in the system to reduce losses, improving collections and being able to cut off non-payers. This last one being easier if there is up-to-date metering and certain big players like government departments and military installations are also forced to obey the rules. These operational improvements and efficiencies will improve the supply of power but will not go far enough.
Switching electricity supplier could shave pounds off your bills. But it’s not always about how much hard cash you could save. You might be fed up with poor customer service, you might want greater visibility of your usage through an app or you might want to choose your supplier based on their green credentials, or whether they supply a smart meter.