By Laura Galloway
Some states in the U.S. have deregulated energy distribution, making it easy to choose from which supplier you receive your energy in those states. Accordingly, www.saveonenergy.com writes what the consumer is really doing is selecting an energy vendor to supply power to their retailer. The retailer, or electric company, then sends the electricity to the consumer’s home. Deregulation gives consumers the opportunity to buy energy at a lower cost or from a company they prefer doing business with.
Shopping for bargains
Here’s what to look for when comparison shopping for the best deal on electricity:
- Watch your energy consumption at home by reviewing the meter and electric bills. Know when the peak times of use are and how the prices might change during the peak and non-peak hours. With this information, you’ll be able to shop for electricity with pricing options similar to what you are used to.
- Every state maintains a website for their public utility commission. Review that site to find the list of energy suppliers available to you.
- Research the energy suppliers. They will indicate how their power is generated, such as coal or gas, or a renewable option, such as hydroelectric or wind. This allows you to chose the supplier from which you are most comfortable receiving energy.
Connecting with suppliers
Once you’ve researched a supplier’s website, you will likely still have some questions. It’s time to find out how responsive their customer service department is. Make a list of questions before you call each supplier’s customer service number. Some of the things you may need to ask are:
- How frequently do the rates change? How are you notified of changes? Can you lock into specific rates for a period of time?
- What are the payment options, if any?
- Are there any discounts or payment options for new home buyers? For renters?
- What portion of the electricity comes from renewable energy sources, and what types?
- Are there online tools to monitor energy use and prices?
- What is the length of the contract you would be asked to agree to?
- If you wanted to switch suppliers, how much notice is required to get out of the contract? Is there a fee for terminating the contract early?
- Does the contract renew automatically at the end of the period? How much notice needs to be given to stop the renewal?
- What are the fees for signing up? Is there a deposit or application fee? What are the fees for late payments?
- Does the supplier bill separately or is it combined with the electric company’s bill?
- What are the supplier’s future plans to incorporate more renewable energy sources?
Learning More About Your Choices — and Your Rights
The state’s attorney general’s office will have information about your rights as a customer of electric suppliers on its website. So should the public service commission web site. Review these sites in your state to know your rights. For instance, the New York State Public Service Commission posts the following statements on the website:
- Your choice of energy supplier can’t be changed without your approval.
- The supplier cannot disconnect your service. This is done by the electric company.
- The public service commission handles all complaints against the energy suppliers.
These rights will vary from state to state. Review and understand these rights before you contact the suppliers’ customer service departments. This will help you determine if they are following the state’s regulations. Have any other tips for choosing the best energy provider for your home? Share them in the comments.
Laura is the lead Web designer for a large environmental nonprofit. She likes to write about digital design trends, environmental issues and DIY hacks, when she is not up to her neck in work at her day job.