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Energy Choice | August 30, 2010

Five things you should know about electric choice

Websites can make it easy for you to review your options. Carefully read through contract terms and conditions.

If this is the first time you’ve seen the phrase “electric choice,” I can assure you that you’re not alone. If you live in a state that has a competitive or restructured energy market, you may not realize that you have the opportunity to choose an alternative electricity provider other than your current utility  for electric products and services.

To get started, here are five things you should know about how electric choice can help you power your home.

1. Find out if you live in a state that offers electric choice. Each state has its own utility commission that regulates utilities, which provide essential services to the public including energy, telecommunications, water, and transportation. If your state offers electric choice, you can find more information from the utilities commission serving your area. To find your state’s website, select your state on the map provided on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners website (http://www.naruc.org/commissions.cfm).

2. Electric choice can help you better manage your household budget.  For those that live in a state with electric choice, selecting a new electric supplier is just like opting for a new phone, Internet or TV service. You can pursue pricing options and plans that may be lower than what your utility is currently offering.

3. Competitive suppliers can provide electricity supply pricing that more closely reflects the current market. This is primarily because competitive suppliers can purchase power at any time, particularly when energy market conditions offer favorable prices.

4. While regulations may vary, generally other than signing up for a new plan, you shouldn’t have to do anything else.  

  • You will continue to receive reliable service.
  • Depending on the plan and the state that you live in, you may still receive one bill from your utility. If you pay your bill online, you can still do that by continuing to pay your bill online through your utility.
  • Often, a new electric supplier will notify your utility on your behalf. Look into this, but in most cases you don’t even have to contact your utility.
  • Your utility will continue to service all equipment – such as your meter – and wires.
  • You will still call your local utility company when your power goes out.
  • Electrical service components such as wires and transformers remain where they are and physical modifications are not required because electricity is delivered through the same poles and wires owned and operated by your utility.
  • You are not required to switch and have the option of remaining a customer of your current utility.

5. Remember that comparison shopping for electricity is just like shopping for anything else. To best maximize electricity choice, you should consider certain factors while shopping.

  • See what you’ve been spending on electricity. Review your recent bill. See how much you’ve been paying for electric supply. When exploring your pricing options, make sure you’re making an apples-to-apples comparison.
  • Learn what your savings could be. Your state’s public utility commission’s website should list competitive energy suppliers in your area. Go through the list and visit websites to review your options. While reviewing your options, read carefully through the contract terms and conditions.
  • Review your product options. Electric choice has often resulted in development of renewable energy products and other sustainable solutions.
  •  Think about customer service. When you call the customer service number provided on the supplier’s site, is the person on the other side responsive or pleasant?
  • If you happen to live in Texas, I recommend that you check out www.powertochoose.org. Even if you don’t live in Texas, the Power to Choose website may be a helpful resource for you.
  • Make a checklist of things to look for when choosing a new electricity supplier. Stay tuned for tips on what items to include. We plan to post more details about this on the blog tomorrow!
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