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.
When it comes to the electricity itself, there is no difference at all. A cheap electric supply is the same electricity, it's simply provided by a new supplier (unless you opt for green energy - more on that here). As suppliers buy and generate different sets of energy they also have different prices. What's more, you might be on a tariff that is simply more expensive, such as a standard tariff. If you decide to switch electricity don't equate a lower price with worse service.
Just as you shop for other products and services, you may also be able to shop for an energy supplier. With choice, energy customers from large manufacturers to residential homeowners are able to shop for energy options from a diverse group of competitive suppliers certified by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). As more suppliers are offering their services in your area, you have the opportunity to choose the company that supplies the generation of your electricity and supplies your natural gas.
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.
Generally, the generation of electricity is unrelated to anything on your bill. Power plant companies generate electricity and sell it to utilities as well as retail electricity providers in deregulated areas. The electricity is then resold to you, the customer. Transmission and distribution is taken care of and charged to you by your utility, regardless of what company supplies the electricity. These charges are separate from the supply portion of your bill.
As the third-largest coal-producing state in the nation, a sizable portion of everyone’s electricity comes from coal, regardless of the plan type you choose. But times are changing: Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requires that 18 percent of all electricity sold by 2021 be sourced from renewable energy. The state subsidizes the increase of renewable energy, and by opting for a green plan, your electricity payments do the same.