In other posts, we have taken a look at differences in electricity prices by state, including tables that rank the states according to prices of residential electricity, business electricity, and industrial electricity. However, there are some states with deregulated electricity markets, where you have a choice between electricity suppliers, and you may be able to save money by switching providers. Actually, if you live in a deregulated state, your best option to get cheap electricity might still be to move to a state without deregulation, since deregulated states tend to have expensive electricity. This is definitely not a case where the free market has brought savings to consumers! However, assuming that this is not an option for you, read on for some information on choosing between electricity suppliers.
To begin with, here is a list of states that are have deregulated electricity markets:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Next, here is a list of questions that you may want to ask a potential electricity supplier to help you decide if they are right for you, grouped into a number of categories. Note that these have been compiled from a variety of state electricity consumer guides.
- What is the price per kilowatt-hour?
- What does that price include?
- Does this rate include everything, including the electricity cost, the transmission and distribution charges, fuel charges, if any, as well as the monthly customer charge or other fees?
- Does your price include sales tax?
- Are there any other taxes, charges or fees included in your price?
- Do you have any built-in monthly customer service fees or other fees?
- Do you have any built-in price increases or decreases?
- What is the total price for, say, 500 kWh of electricity usage?
- Are the energy prices fixed, or will they change from month to month?
- If it is a fixed rate, for how long does the rate stay fixed?
- If it is a fixed rate, is it guaranteed?
- If your price varies, does it vary by amount of usage, by time of day or month, both, or by other factors?
- Are there other charges that could change during the term of the agreement?
- Is there more than one rate plan to choose from?
- How long is your price offer valid?
- What is the length of the agreement/term of the contract?
- Are there any early termination fees associated with the contract?
- What happens if I move outside the service territory during the contract term?
- What happens when my contract period expires?
- Are there any other terms in the agreement?
- Can I review your standard contract before I receive your price offer?
- Whom can I call with questions about my contract?
- What steps are necessary to enroll?
- Will there be a credit check performed?
- Is a deposit required and if so, how much?
- What steps must I take if I want to change suppliers or return to supply service with the utility?
- What will be the date my service starts? When will I receive my first bill?
- Will there be switching, membership or other fees?
- Is there a customer incentive for signing up?
- How will I be billed? Who provides the bill (or bills)?
- Can I pay one consolidated bill for both my energy supplies and the delivery service, or must I pay separate bills to my energy supplier and my distribution utility?
- Am I able to participate in different bill plans such as budget billing or deferred payment arrangements?
- What options are available for bill payments? Can I receive and pay my bill on-line, or pay by credit card or check by phone?
- If I do not pay my bill in full, what collection activity will occur and when?
- Are there minimum bill amounts?
- Will notices that are required by law (disconnection, tree-trimming, claims, etc.) be sent to me if the bill is not provided by the utility?
- Does the supplier have a customer service center, website, or toll-free number?
- What are the Customer Service hours and phone number?
- Are you certified/licensed by the public utilities commission (or other appropriate body for your state)?
- What are your generation sources?
- Are environmentally-friendly generation sources such as solar, wind, or hydro power available?
- Am I a member of a group that has a program in place to purchase energy together to increase buying power?
Now that you know if your state provides you with choice in electricity suppliers, and you know what questions to ask those suppliers, go forth in your quest for cheap electricity!