As the leading producer of nuclear energy, the U.S. has some of the world’s cheapest electricity—which for the industrial sector averages between 6.75 and 9.33 cents per kWh. These prices are either trumped or competitive with other nuclear power-producing countries such as Russia ($0.11 cents per kWh), Canada ($0.10) and China ($0.08). India, which doesn't quite make it into the top 10, generates 30 billion kWh annually at an average of $0.08 cents per kWh.
Variable rate plans are always month-to-month, save for three-month intro specials in which your rate stays the same for those early months. Fixed rate plans, on the other hand, are available for periods ranging from six to 36 months. The contract lengths, and how that length influences the price per kWh rate, varies enormously from company to company. Some companies offer lower rates when you enroll for longer periods. Others raise the rate slightly. The competing rationale: You will be paying them for longer so you get a break, or you have that price locked in when energy rates inevitably rise. One rule of thumb — the longer the contract, the higher the cancellation fee.
Around 85% of Texas residents must choose an electricity provider. Utility companies transmit and distribute electricity to customers. But that electricity doesn’t come from a utility—it comes from companies known as Retail Electric Providers. These providers offer competitive plans based on electricity pricing, term length, renewable sourcing and more.
Technology that now allows smaller quantities of power to be generated closer to the end-users at prices not too much higher than grid-based power are undermining those economies of scale. More efficient turbines, for example, allow large power users like cement plants and petrochemical factories to come off the grid. Today the limiting factor for large companies to come off the grid often isn’t the efficiency of the power generation technology, but the lack of easy availability of fuel, such as gas or coal to power these turbines Even this problem is being solved by innovations like mini-liquefied natural gas projects.
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.
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”.
The problem is that across Africa, the vast majority of the power utilities are effectively bankrupt. Another World Bank study (pdf) on African Utilities shows that only two of the 39 African utilities surveyed, in the Seychelles and Uganda, were able to generate enough cash to cover both their operating costs and capital expenditures necessary to invest in the maintenance and expansion of the grid. In fact, only 19 of the 39 companies were able to generate enough cash to cover their day-to-day operating costs. It means the rest were not even able to pay everyday costs, like salaries, in full.
Multi-year electricity contracts are not unusual; this method of structuring customer timelines is. Our guess: It’s a holdover style of billing from FirstEnergy’s involvement with governmental aggregations — municipal groups that get together and buy their energy as a community. Rather than have the option of a long term or short term plan, consumers are forced to take what’s available to them at the time.
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