Residents and business owners have been able to shop Texas electricity supply rates for more than a decade. When Texans gained the ability to choose their desired energy company in 2002, the electric industry divided into two parts: supply and delivery. Retail energy companies in Texas compete for business, offering a variety of term agreements and supply rates for consumers to choose from.
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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.
We’ve done some of the work for you. We homed in on five of the biggest electric companies in Pennsylvania: Constellation Energy, Direct Energy, FirstEnergy Solutions, Green Mountain Energy, and Just Energy. We compared their plans, rates, special offers, and philanthropies, then dug into the contract fine print to uncover sneaky fees and the truth about discounts. Because most providers offer a range of options, we also looked at the companies behind the plans — paying attention to their corporate impact, customer service reputation, and customer resources in particular.
Even though customers in deregulated cities routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated cities like Houston and regulated cities like San Antonio have dwindled to the narrowest point ever to 8.8 percent. Back in 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
Prior to electricity deregulation, power was supplied by regional utility monopolies that could own and operate all three parts of electric service. In response to a growing demand for competition in the industry, spurred by the success of deregulation in the airline and telecommunications industries, Congress passed the National Energy Policy Act in 1992 which created wholesale electric markets that allow for open access of generation.
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.
The Virgin Islands, in fact, has some of the world’s most expensive electricity precisely because it doesn't have the means to diversify its energy portfolio. The territory depends entirely on imported crude oil to run its petroleum power plants, and as a result, its energy goes for between 50.8 and 54.8 cents per kWh as of last year. This business-repelling price far exceeds that of countries whose energy is considered steep compared to the U.S. average, namely, Denmark ($0.41 cents per kWh), Germany ($0.35), Spain ($0.30), Australia ($0.29) and Italy ($0.28). This year the Virgin Islands has tried to reel in businesses with substantial tax breaks, but the savings might not be enough to offset the eye-popping electricity bill.
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.
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.
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.
Of FirstEnergy’s two plans, “Residential Fixed Price” (July 2019) and “Residential Fixed Price” (July 2020), the longer term contract comes with a reduced rate, per usual. If you’re hesitant to enter into a lengthy commitment because you’re planning to move within the next year or two, it’s nice to know that FirstEnergy builds a moving loophole into its cancellation policy. If you’re changing addresses and FirstEnergy does not service your new neighborhood, it doesn’t levy a cancellation fee. Opting out for any other reason comes with a $50 fee, cheaper than any other flat-rate cancellation fee we’ve seen. In fact, it might still be cheaper to go with the longer contract if you aren’t sure when you’ll move, or whether you can take your FirstEnergy service with you.
If you’re on a fixed rate tariff with your current supplier, check to see if there’s an exit fee for leaving the contract early. If there is, you’ll need to factor this cost into your price comparison as it could swallow up some of the potential savings. If you can supply your tariff name when you get a quote, we can take your tariff into account when showing you the savings you could make.