Twenty-nine states have deregulated electricity, natural gas or both. That allows you to shop for the supply portion of your bill from alternative providers who may offer rates lower than the default supplier – usually a utility. Delivery services and billing will remain the responsibility of the local utility as they own the power lines and wires that keep the lights on.
All of Direct Energy’s offers include either a rewards program or a charitable donation, and the benefits get bigger the more electricity you use. Paying for electricity isn’t exactly the most fun thing you could spend your money on. If you are looking for a little sugar to help the medicine go down, Direct Energy has a dessert tray of options. Fair warning: They’re not quite as sweet as they look.
Ultimately, the main difference between an electricity provider and an electric utility comes down to what they service and how. Electricity providers deal with purchasing and marketing electricity to customers. Electric utilities handle the poles and wires that service your home. Separating these roles means customers can shop for a competitive electricity rate and still receive reliable electric service.
Know that Green Mountain’s cheapest advertised plans are all variable rate plans. “Pollution Free,” “Pollution Free Try 3,” or “SolarSPARC 10 Try 3” all advertise a great initial rate — a full cent below Pennsylvania’s 8.49 cent “price to compare” — but its variable rates means the company can raise them at any time. The two “Try 3” plans just lock in the low introductory rate for three months instead of one. The flipside of fixed rate: Should prices fall, you’ll be locked into a contract with a constant, elevated rate for two more months.
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.
It all starts with the power generators – the companies who produce electricity to sell on the wholesale market. The electricity providers purchase the rights to large volumes of this electricity from the generators on the wholesale market and then turn around and sell it to their retail customers. The electricity providers market the sale of electricity to the public through various offerings of electricity plans that include everything from classic fixed-rate electricity, to 100% green electricity, to bundled products that have incentives such as a Nest Learning Thermostat™ or Visa gift cards.
It’s worth noting that you can switch for free with no exit fee 42-49 days before the end of your contract. Under Ofgem’s standards of conduct, energy firms have to give you between 42 and 49 days’ notice of your tariff ending. You can use this time to decide whether to stick with them, or switch. If you decide to switch, you won’t be charged an exit fee.