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.
Deregulation allows you to choose from a variety of retail electricity providers, much like you’d shop around for a telephone or internet provider. When choosing an electricity provider, the process is completely hassle-free. You will not have any service interruptions, your electricity will still be just as reliable as before, and your monthly bill will continue to arrive. If your power goes out, your utility will still be the one to call. The only change will be under the supply portion of you bill. There, you will see the provider you selected and the rate you approved.
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”.
Nebraska is the only state that generates electricity entirely by publicly-owned power systems. As of 2017, the statewide average electricity price is the sixteenth-lowest rate in the country, based on the latest federal figures. Nationally, electricity costs 15 percent more than it does in Nebraska. Across all sectors, Hawaii has the highest electricity rate (26.07 cents), and Louisiana has the lowest electricity rate (7.75 cents).
Depending on the state where you live, you’ll get your electricity bill from your local electric utility or your electricity provider. Either way your electricity bill generally has two line items: supply and delivery. The supply charge is for the actual electricity used and this is paid to your electricity provider. The delivery charge is for the transmission and distribution of electricity and this is paid to your local electric utility. In most states you will receive these charges on one bill, and the company that collects your payment will make sure that the appropriate parties are paid for their services.
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.