Pennsylvania offers first-time retail shoppers an attractive discount with the Standard Offer Program. The Public Utility Commission has a rotating list of retail providers and upon enrollment, they’ll hook you up with a 12-month fixed-rate plan at seven percent off the current utility price. You can cancel at any time without fees. For 1,000 kWh per month usage, PECO quoted us a price to compare of 7.13 cents. A seven percent discount brings that rate to 6.63 cents per kWh (lower than any plan on our provider list) — a $60 savings after a year of service.
Just as impressive: Its overall J.D. Power score for customer satisfaction. The 1,000 point score considers price, communications, corporate citizenship, enrollment and renewal, and customer service. At 709, Green Mountain Energy scored the highest of all Pennsylvania companies, well above the 669 state average, and a solid 20 points ahead of the next closest provider we looked at — Constellation.
Electricity is deregulated in two Canadian provinces: Ontario and Alberta. Both markets showed price spikes in the first year of dereguation, but then settled down into a volatile but reasonably stable environment. Alberta's market is dominated by fossil fuel generation and as such reacts more closely to the price of natural gas. Ontario's generation mix is about 50% nuclear.
In some states, utilities can also generate and sell electricity, but customers aren’t forced to buy the electricity from the utility company. They may choose from either the utility or available electricity providers. Before signing up for electricity service, we recommend checking the local utility’s electricity supply rate by checking their rates online or contacting them directly.
As a renter, you’re likely concerned about getting your electricity contract’s start and end dates to match your lease term as close as possible. In most cases, your electricity provider will offer flexible start dates and some even offer same-day connections. If you can’t line up your electricity contract exactly with your lease term, it’s okay. It’s better to choose an electricity plan with a slightly longer contract term than your apartment lease if necessary. If you move and provide proof of a change in address, your electricity provider cannot charge you an early termination fee.
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.
If you would rather have a steady rate and not think about twice about starting a load of laundry at 6:30pm versus 7:30pm, Direct Energy’s standard, 12-month, fixed-rate plan Live Brighter runs at an affordable 7.99 cents per kWh. Again, using 1,000 kWh per month would add up to a yearly total of $958.80 — higher than both Free Nights and Free Weekends, but also a lot simpler.
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.