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2. Fraud: Too many people have been victimized by glib sales reps with promises of cheap electricity flowing in an unending stream only to discover that, as is so often true, “it ain’t necessarily so”. They’ve been locked into unwanted term contracts or there’s a catch – some utilities will give you the great rate only if you meet a usage minimum; basically, the “rate” is, in actuality, a “bulk purchase” discounted fee – or they paid a deposit never to hear from the rep again.
The inclusion of renewable energy distributed generation and AMI in the modern electricity grid has introduced many alternative rate structures. Simple (or fixed) rate, tiered (or step) rate, TOU, demand rates, tiered within TOU, seasonal, and weekend/holiday rates are among the few residential rate structures offered by modern utilities. The simple rate charges a specific dollar per kilowatt ($/kWh) consumed. The tiered rate is one of the more common residential rate programs, and it charges a higher rate as customer usage increases. TOU and demand rates are structured to help maintain/control a utility’s peak demand. The concept at its core is to discourage customers from contributing to peak-load times by charging them more money to use power at that time.
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.
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.