Even though it’s not ideal for either party, both customers and electric service providers have to purchase electricity at current market rates. Strategically timing your switch to a new electricity provider can help you score the best electric rates in a market that’s out of your control. Another way to feel more in control when switching energy suppliers is to sign up for a fixed-rate plan.
Then, in 2002, Texas deregulated the electricity market and everybody cheered! Except that, sure, deregulation opened up the market to competition that may (or may not) have resulted in lower rates, but it introduced a whole host of other issues. These issues may not have been factors before but now they’re critical when you’re on the look-out for cheap Houston electricity providers.
Utilities, or energy companies, in Maryland offer customers information to know how much they are spending on electric supply each month. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., for example, provides a tool known as the Standard Offer Service, which shows customers how much they can expect to pay for energy supply each month. Current supply rates show that BGE customers will pay 8.225 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). ChooseEnergy.com, as of mid-May, offers a 36-month plan that could save 13 percent on that rate now.
In states with energy choice, the open market is not only for residents. Businesses also can take advantage of pricing and plans available through an energy supplier. In some states, only business customers have energy choice. Across the United States, the average business consumes 6,278 kWh of electricity per month and receives a bill of nearly $655.
There’s some smart money placing big bets on a rebound for oil. Blackstone Group LP BX, +0.75% President Hamilton “Tony” James said last month that the company was “scrambling” to invest up to $10 billion in energy companies, according to Bloomberg. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman said during the company’s earnings call on Jan. 29 that the majority of Blackstone’s energy investments were “oil-price agnostic, including energy-transportation infrastructure where we have off-take agreements, merchant power, renewables and other types of energy-oriented investing.”
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.
Prices for any single class of electricity customer can vary by time-of-day called TOU or time of use or by the capacity or nature of the supply circuit (e.g., 5 kW, 12 kW, 18 kW, 24 kW are typical in some of the large developed countries); for industrial customers, single-phase vs. 3-phase, etc. Prices are usually highest for commercial and residential consumers because of the additional costs associated with stepping down their distribution voltage. The price of power for industrial customers is relatively the same as the wholesale price of electricity, because they consume more power at higher voltages. Supplying electricity at transmission-level high voltages is more efficient, and therefore less expensive.
Unlike with long-term plans, monthly, variable rate (no-contract) plans have no cancellation fees. You won’t have to pay a penalty if you decide to take your business elsewhere because you found a better deal. Plus, you won’t be left paying more than you should if the market rate for energy trends down. However, if the market prices rise, you’ll have to pay more than those who are in-contract.