But, again, the concept isn’t difficult. Let’s use the city of Joliet as an example. Joliet’s traditional utility for the 60435 area code is Commonwealth Edison. As of late February, its price to compare is 7.195 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh); at this writing, four plans from ChooseEnergy.com featured suppliers with lower rates, including one that’s 18% cheaper and uses all green energy.
Just Energy’s style of Contract Summaries doesn’t make it easy to parse out exact details, leaving blank spaces where rate and term length info should appear. On the third page, you’ll find densely typed Terms and Conditions that confusingly conflate Just Energy’s natural gas and electricity plans. It’s heavy on the legalese but light on the data that you’ll want to nail down before making a purchasing decision, like rate. We couldn’t get a clear price or explanation on what happens after commitment without enrolling in a plan.
Technology also provides a long-term answer, even if it contributes to the problem in the short-term, as described earlier. As renewable power and storage technologies become cheaper and more efficient they will gradually allow for the implementation of cheaper mini-grids and smart grids, increasingly within the reach of the really poor, even in urban areas. Perhaps, grids will one day become marketplaces allowing people to sell excess power from their solar installations to those who have a need for power at that time. Prices can be set dynamically to allow supply to match demand.
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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