Studies show that generally demand for electricity is driven largely by temperature. Heating demand in the winter and cooling demand (air conditioners) in the summer are what primarily drive the seasonal peaks in most regions. Heating degree days and cooling degree days help measure energy consumption by referencing the outdoor temperature above and below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, a commonly accepted baseline.
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.
The weakest S&P 500 subsector during 2014 was Oil and Gas Drilling, down 46%, which wasn’t very surprising, considering the price of oil dropped 50% from its peak in June through the end of the year. That subsector has risen 6% this year through Monday’s close, showing that there’s plenty of buying taking place. Most other subsectors within energy declined last year, but only three have risen so far in 2015.
If you live in the greater Houston area, there are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business. Many of these providers have websites that are confusing and difficult to navigate, their rates buried in misleading advertising and dense jargon. Who has the time to sort through and keep track of options across all these different sites?
The UK has been a net importer of energy for over a decade, and as their generation capacity and reserves decrease the level of importing is reaching an all-time high. Their fuel price's dependence on international markets has a huge effect on the cost of electricity, especially if the exchange rate falls. Being energy dependent makes their electricity prices vulnerable to world events, as well.
Every single energy supplier in the UK is regulated by Ofgem, the industry regulator. This means that the smaller, lesser-known companies have to follow exactly the same rules as the bigger, more established ones. If a company goes bust, you’ll be covered by Ofgem – they’ll ensure your supply isn’t cut off, and they’ll appoint a new supplier to take over your tariff.
Anyone on a standard rate tariff is at risk of seeing rising energy bills – so one of the best ways to protect from energy price increases is to switch to a fixed rate tariff. This means that for the duration of the deal, the cost of your energy and gas will be fixed. You may be able to switch to a cheaper fixed price tariff at any point, or you may have to pay a fee if you switch before the end of the deal – so check your paperwork.
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”.
To skirt the late summer electricity rate hikes, a little bit of planning can really pay off. Try to avoid signing new long-term electricity contracts in late summer. While it may be impossible to escape signing a new electricity contract if you’re moving during that time, just know that a short-term plan may make more sense until the rates go back down in the fall. That way you’re not stuck paying a premium rate for an entire year or more.
Aside from times of natural disasters and large-scale accidents, electricity prices tend to be steadily dictated by electricity demand. Typically, the price of electricity rises when demand rises. In turn, the lower demand is, the cheaper electricity rates become. This pattern is due to the fact that increased demand requires increased energy production. When extra energy is demanded, utilities are forced to use alternative sources of energy production that may cost more to operate. For example, when electricity demand reaches a high point in Texas, coal plants are used alongside the typical natural gas plants. These coal plants are costlier and less effective than natural gas plants, but are necessary to meet high electricity demand levels.
In terms of renewable sources like solar and wind, weather impacts supply. California’s duck curve[cite] shows the difference between electricity demand and the amount of solar energy available throughout the day. On a sunny day, solar power floods the electricity generation market and then drops during sunless evening, when electricity demand peaks.
The local electric company is the utility – that’s the company who owns the infrastructure, including the poles and power lines that deliver electricity to your home. They are who you call if your power goes out or there's an emergency. But in almost every city in Texas, you must choose another company to supply that energy, called a Retail Electric Provider (REP). These REPs, like Spark Energy, allow you to choose electricity plans that offer competitive prices and plans to meet your needs.