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.
The two most common distinctions between customer classes are load size and usage profile. In many cases, time-of-use (TOU) and load factor are more significant factors than load size. Contribution to peak-load is an extremely important factor in determining customer rate class. Consumer loads may be characterized as peak, off-peak, baseload, and seasonal. Utilities rate each load differently, because each has different implications for a power system.
Fixed-rate, long-term (contract) plans provide stability in electricity rates. If market energy costs suddenly trend upward where you live, you can rest assured that you won’t have to pay more out of pocket. However, if you want to switch to a different, lower-cost plan before the end of the contract term, you’ll likely have to pay a cancellation or early termination fee.