Tips Con Ed Customers Can Use for Switching Electricity and Natural Gas Suppliers

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If you live in New York and are a customer of Con Edison (Con Ed), the state’s largest public utility, electricity and natural gas are delivered to your home by Con Ed. You may even buy your electricity and natural gas from Con Ed. But you don’t have to. Con Ed’s service territory is deregulated, which means you’re allowed to shop around and buy your electricity and natural gas from among several competing energy companies, called Energy Service Companies, or ESCOs.

The idea behind deregulation is that competition from energy companies will drive down prices as the companies compete for your business. The good thing is that you don’t have to worry about your electricity and natural gas service. Con Ed will still deliver the energy to your home, regardless of which company you buy it from. Even better, shopping around for energy can save you money off monthly utility bills. Here are a few tips to help you choose the ESCO that’s right for you.

How to choose an ESCO

A Con Ed customer who is thinking of switching from Con Ed to an ESCO should contact the electricity and natural gas suppliers that offer service in the area, compare the offers and look into how companies handle things like customer service and bill payments. There’s more to an ESCO than just the price and things like bilingual support or a mobile app can increase your satisfaction.

When you contact the ESCO, ask about the different plans they offer, terms of the plan — including whether the plan has a fixed rate or variable rate and contains any minimum usage fees or early-termination fees — bill payment options, customer support options and any other options important to you.

Don’t forget: Con Ed will still be your energy delivery company

Remember, regardless of which electricity or natural gas supplier you choose to buy your energy from, Con Ed will continue to deliver electricity and natural gas to your home. Con Ed will still be responsible for responding to outages and emergencies and for providing service for wires, poles, transformers and gas lines.

Also, it’s important to note that regardless of who you buy your electricity or natural gas from, Con Ed will provide you with the same level of service as everyone else. In other words, Con Ed won’t punish you with bad service if you buy your energy from another company.

How to sign up with an ESCO

Once you’ve made your decision on which electricity or natural gas ESCO you want to switch to, the ESCO will ask for your Con Ed account number to obtain your electricity or natural gas usage information. Once you agree on a plan, you can enroll immediately (with most ESCOs).

When does new service with an ESCO begin?

For electricity suppliers, your new ESCO will begin selling you electricity on your next meter reading date, as long as you enroll in the new service at least 15 days prior to the date. If you enroll after that, you’ll have to wait for the next meter reading date to begin receiving electricity under your ESCO’s plan.

For natural gas suppliers, things are a little simpler. If you enroll by the 15th of any month, you’ll begin receiving gas under your ESCO’s plan by the first day of the following month.

How will I be billed if I switch to an ESCO?

If you switch to an electricity or natural gas ESCO, you may receive two bills — one from the ESCO for the amount of electricity or natural gas that you use and one from Con Ed for delivering the energy to your home — or you could receive one combined bill with two separate charges for supply, from the ESCO, and delivery, from Con Ed. Other billing options are possible. How your bill is delivered will be based on your ESCO and the arrangement it has with Con Ed.

If I switch from Con Ed to an ESCO, can I switch back to Con Ed?

Yes. However, you should consider the terms of your ESCO’s contract, including things such as early termination fees, before switching back. If you switch from a natural gas ESCO back to Con Ed, you must remain with Con Ed for one year before switching to another natural gas ESCO.

Sources

Con Edison, “PowerYourWay for Residential.”

Con Edison, “PowerYourWay Frequently Asked Questions.”

Basic Information on Electric Choice for Illinois Residents

Thursday March 15, 2012
Posted at 10:12

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If you live in Illinois and have electricity distributed to your home by ComEd or Ameren Illinois, you live in an area that has been deregulated. That means the public utility monopolies, which were once the only companies that could sell electricity, have been broken up and the ability to sell electricity expanded to include alternative retail electric suppliers, or ARES, that are allowed to supply electricity and compete with each other for your business.

As a result, you’ve been given what’s referred to as electric choice, which means you can choose whether to buy your electricity from your utility or from an alternative retail electricity supplier.

Although electric choice can sometimes be confusing, it’s really quite simple. Here is some basic information about the roles that the electric utilities and ARES play in areas of Illinois that have electric choice, how they affect you, and what choices you can make about your electricity supply.

What the Deregulated Electric Utilities Do

ComEd and Ameren Illinois take electricity that is put onto the grid by power generation companies and distribute it to your home. This is called electricity distribution.

The utilities are also responsible for maintaining, repairing and upgrading all of the equipment used to distribute power to your home, including wires, poles, transformers and meters. Additionally, the utilities are responsible for responding to emergencies related to distribution, such as power outages and sparking wires.

The utilities aren’t in the business of selling electricity, which is referred to as electricity supply, but they are required to sell electricity to you if you choose not to buy your power from an ARES. The price of electricity supplied by the utilities is set and regulated by the state through an annual auction.

ComEd and Ameren Illinois view all of their electricity distribution customers equally, regardless of who supplies their power. Customers who receive electricity supply from the utility aren’t treated any differently than customers who receive electricity supply from an ARES. The way the utilities provide customer service, fix equipment and respond to outages and other emergencies is the same for everyone.

What the ARES Do

The ARES are only involved in electricity supply. Unlike the utilities, the ARES aren’t involved in dealing with equipment like wires or poles and are not involved in responding to outages or other emergencies. If you choose to buy your electricity from an ARES, the utility that distributes power to your home will still be responsible for maintaining equipment and responding to outages.

ARES have more flexibility with pricing, which can benefit customers. Because ARES compete with one another for your business and purchase power in bulk continuously throughout the year, they may sell electricity at lower rates than the utilities.

Like any other kind of company, ARES are not all the same. They best ARES offer competitive rate plans, high levels of customer service and provide additional features such as a comprehensive website, mobile-friendly information and Spanish-language customer service representatives.

What Choices You Have

If electricity is distributed to your home by ComEd or Ameren Illinois, you have only one, simple choice to make: who to buy your electricity from. You can’t choose the utility that distributes electricity to your home, but you can choose whether that electricity is supplied by the regulated utility or one of the competitive ARES operating in your area.

It’s important to note that you’re not required to switch to an ARES. However, if you choose to buy your electricity from your utility, you’ll have no choice when it comes to your electricity rate or the terms of your electricity plan, which are both regulated by the state. The only way to have an option when it comes to rates and plan terms is to shop around for an ARES that gives you the best combination of pricing and features.

Sources

Plug In Illinois, “Electric Choice Basics.”

How Electricity Deregulation is Working to Free Illinois Electric Customers

ComEd electricity deregulation

Illinois electricity customers who get their electricity delivered by Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) or Ameren Illinois Utilities (Ameren), the state’s two largest public utilities, reside in deregulated areas. While those residents can’t choose who delivers electricity to their homes, they can choose to buy their electricity from either the utility or an alternative retail electricity supplier (ARES). However, a little-known provision in Illinois law could be activated that would result in every resident and business in a deregulated area choosing an ARES to supply their electricity while the utilities would focus on simply delivering the electricity through their power lines and related infrastructure.

And that’s probably a good thing for Illinois electric customers. Here’s why.

Deregulation Has Resulted in Lower Rates for Electricity Customers

The Illinois electricity market was deregulated in 1997. Since then, commercial and industrial electricity customers have benefitted from buying electricity from ARES, which, as it turns out, are more nimble when it comes to procuring power than the Illinois Power Agency (IPA). While the IPA is tasked with buying electricity for ComEd and Ameren customers once a year at auction, the ARES are able to buy power from wholesalers continuously. As a result, the ARES have been able to offer lower prices than the utilities and business customers have pocketed significant savings. Now, more than 75 percent of Illinois businesses buy their electricity from an ARES.

Since 2007, residential electricity customers have also been able to buy their power from ARES. Now, as of December 2011, more than 261,000 residential customers have switched, including over 225,000 from ComEd. And that number is growing rapidly. ComEd alone has seen its number of switchers grow more than ten-fold since May.

If the number of switchers keeps rising, a provision of the IPA Act could be triggered that could result in additional benefits for electric customers. The provision states that if, anytime after July 1, 2012, more than one-third of a utility’s residential customer base is buying its power from an ARES, and there are at least three ARES competing in the utility’s service territory, the utility can petition the Illinois Commerce Commission to declare the market “competitive.”

If the Commission agrees, then the utility is allowed to essentially stop buying and selling electricity and concentrate fully on doing what it does best: delivering electricity to customers. Customers still buying their electricity from the utility at that point would be required to choose which ARES to buy their electricity from, and the utility would deliver that electricity to the customer’s home or business just as they always have.

Sources

Chamber Dispatch, “Imagine ComEd Buys No Electricity … It’s Easy if You Try.”

Illinois Commerce Commission, “Electric Switching Statistics: 2011 Filings,” published Jan. 25, 2012.

262,000 Illinois Electricity Customers Have Switched to a Retail Supplier

Thursday February 23, 2012
Posted at 09:31

More and more Illinois electricity customers are discovering the benefits of buying their power from an alternative retail electric supplier (ARES).

The number of Illinois residential electricity customers who switched from their utility and started buying their electricity from an ARES grew more than 17 percent in December, to 261,998 from 223,528 in November, according to the most recent data from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), which regulates the state’s electricity service.

In December, more than 30,000 customers switched from ComEd alone, bringing the number of residential electricity switchers from the state’s largest public utility to 225,486, an increase of more than 15 percent from November.

“We’ve been seeing the momentum build for switching all year long, especially from ComEd,” said Jim Head, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Spark Energy. “When electricity choice first came to Illinois in January 2011, only 1,188 customers switched from ComEd to an ARES. By May that number had increased almost twenty-fold. By the end of September, more than 100,000 had switched. And by the end of December, just three months later, more than 225,000 had switched. Based on the trend, those numbers could easily eclipse a quarter million when the ICC releases data for January.”

Head cited ongoing educational efforts by the state and the electricity suppliers for helping Illinois residents understand the benefits of switching. Head also noted that robust consumer protection rules in the state were helping ensure the safety of electricity customers who left their utility in favor of buying their power from an ARES.

Sources

Illinois Commerce Commission, “Supply Options Chosen by Customers of Commonwealth Edison Company, 2011,” Jan. 25, 2012.

Plug In Illinois, “Residential Customers Taking Service from a RES.”

How Do I Switch From ComEd to a Retail Electricity Supplier?

Tuesday February 21, 2012
Posted at 16:38

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If you live in Illinois and have electricity delivered to your home by Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd), you have the option of choosing to buy your electricity from ComEd or from a retail electricity supplier.

Regardless of whether you buy your power from ComEd or a retail electricity supplier, ComEd will continue to deliver it to your home, take calls about outages and maintain equipment like wires, poles and transformers. That means all you have to do is shop around for the retail electricity supplier that will provide you with the electricity plan, customer service, stability and other features that you’re looking for.

Once you’ve chosen your retail electricity supplier and asked them to switch your service, your switch will be completed in three easy steps:

  1. The retail electricity supplier that you’ve chosen will notify ComEd of the change
  2. ComEd will contact you by mail to confirm that you want to start buying your electricity from your new retail electricity supplier
  3. Once you’ve confirmed your decision with ComEd, the utility and your new retail electricity supplier will work together to seamlessly complete the process; nobody will come to your home to flip a switch and your service won’t be interrupted

You can switch any time; there’s never a deadline. The effective date of your switch will occur on your next meter read date. Your new retail electricity supplier should show up on your bill roughly 18-45 days from the date you signed up with them. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that if you switch from ComEd to a retail electricity supplier and then switch back to ComEd, you might have to buy your electricity from the utility for a 12 month period before you can switch to a retail electricity supplier again.

Good luck shopping for your new retail electricity provider. If you have any more questions, you can get answers to common ComEd switching questions or ask us on Facebook or Twitter.

Sources

Plug In Illinois, “The Switching Process.”

More Connecticut Electricity Customers Switching to Alternative Suppliers

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An increasing number of electric customers in Connecticut get their electricity from competitive retail suppliers and not from the state’s two public utilities, according to a new report on competitive supply.

The 5th Annual Baseline Assessment of Choice in Canada and the United States (ABACCUS), by Distributed Energy Financial Group LLC, found that more than 65 percent of electricity sold in Connecticut is purchased from alternative retail suppliers that entered the state’s electricity market when it was opened up to competition in 1998.

Competition broke up the state’s two electric utility monopolies, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, and made electricity supply separate from distribution. While the utilities, which were turned into electricity distribution companies, could still sell electricity at state-regulated rates, alternative retail suppliers were allowed to enter the market and compete with the utilities and each other for customers.

The competitive retail electricity supply market was slow to catch on due to small rate savings between the utilities and retail suppliers initially. However, over the past four years, the number of electric customers who switched from their utility to an alternative electricity supplier increased sharply.

In 2008, 6.6 percent of residential electric customers had switched to a retail supplier. By 2011, that number increased to 40.6 percent. Commercial electric customers have switched in even greater numbers. By 2011, 80 percent of small businesses and 90 percent of large businesses had switched to a retail supplier.

Sources

Retailers Sell Two-Thirds of CT Electricity,” Hartford Business Journal, Nov. 30, 2011.

Over 150,000 ComEd Electric Customers Have Switched to Alternative Suppliers

Tuesday December 6, 2011
Posted at 11:00

More than 150,000 residential customers of Illinois electric company Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd), the state’s largest public utility, have switched to alternative electric suppliers and no longer buy their electricity from their utility.

According to the latest statistics from the Illinois Commerce Commission, the state’s public utility regulator, 158,511 residential customers in the ComEd service area had switched to a alternative electric supplier and completed at least one billing cycle as of Oct. 30.

The number represented a sharp increase of more than 50,000 from the 104,984 that had switched from the utility at the end of September, during which nearly 24,000 ComEd electric customers switched to alternative suppliers.

Almost twice as many ComEd customers switched to alternative suppliers during the two month period from September to October as had switched during the period since deregulation began until the end of August.

Energy Choice Matters notes that the actual number of customers who have switched from ComEd is likely higher as the data did not count enrollments completed by Oct. 30 that had yet to be billed at least once.

Sources

ComEd Residential Migration Jumps by 50,000 in October,” Energy Choice Matters, Nov. 16, 2011.

Residential Customers Billed Under Competitive Supply Surpasses at 100,000 at ComEd,” Energy Choice Matters, Oct. 26, 2011.

PECO Residential Electric Customers Continue to Leave Utility

Friday November 11, 2011
Posted at 11:38

Pennsylvania residential electric customers are continuing to leave their electric utilities to join one of the state’s many alternative electric suppliers.

According to the most recent statistics from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and Energy Choice Matters, PECO lost 2,700 accounts to alternative electric suppliers from Oct. 2 to Oct. 8, compared with 2,500 accounts from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1.

Other electric utilities in the state also continued to see a steady stream of residential customers migrate to alternative electric suppliers, although at a slower pace. At West Penn Power, migration continued, but reduced from 1,400 during Sept. 25 through Oct. 1 to 1,000 during Oct. 2 through Oct. 8. In August, migration to alternative electric suppliers at West Penn Power was in the 4,000-customer range.

Migration also continued but slowed at Penelec, which lost 2,500 residential electric customers in early September but just 800 from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1 and 650 from Oct. 2 to Oct. 8.

At PPL, migration slowed to 481 customers during the most recent week from 650 the previous week.

Sources

PPL Again Sees Net Decline in Residential Migration,” Energy Choice Matters, Oct. 13, 2011.

You Might Save Money by Switching from ComEd to an Alternative Electric Supplier

Tuesday November 8, 2011
Posted at 17:03

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Electric customers looking to save money should consider switching from Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) to an alternative electric supplier. Being well-informed is the key to knowing if switching is the right choice.

Insiders say opportunities for savings exist in Illinois’ competitive electricity market, which allows consumers to leave their electric utility and shop around for the best deal on power for their homes and businesses. However, those same insiders say that the state’s electric customers are still largely confused and unsure about what a competitor will provide versus ComEd, how reliable the alternative electric supplier will be and how to find out if switching to a new electric company will be a good deal or not.

The only way to answer those questions, consumer advocates say, is for electric customers to do their homework.

Switching Electric Companies Won’t Affect Your Electricity Service

The first thing electric customers need to realize is that no matter who supplies them with electricity, ComEd will still own and maintain all the poles, wires and other equipment used to deliver electricity to their homes or businesses. Whether customers stay with ComEd or switch to an alternative electric supplier, ComEd will still be responsible for responding to power outages and for servicing equipment when it becomes damaged or needs to be replaced or upgraded.

Simply put, switching to an alternative electric supplier won’t make a bit of difference when it comes to the delivery of electricity. And, contrary to what some electric customers think, ComEd won’t punish customers if they buy their electricity somewhere else.

Switching Electric Companies Could Be a Good Deal

Robyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for the Illinois attorney general, told the Daily Herald that consumers thinking about switching should compare the price of electricity offered by ComEd, which is regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission, with prices offered by alternative electric suppliers.

“The bill that consumers receive from [ComEd] provides information regarding the historic usage and the current price, which can be used for that comparison,” Ziegler said. “Sometimes it is not really an apples-to-apples comparison, depending on the terms of the contract.”

The terms of an alternative supplier’s contract can be a big factor in determining whether it’s a good deal to switch. For example, some contracts offer fixed electricity pricing while others offer variable pricing. With a fixed contract, you’ll be protected from price fluctuations in the market. You’ll pay the same rate for electricity each month, regardless of what happens to the price of electricity.

Consumers should also pay attention to other provisions in contracts with alternative electric suppliers, including potential contract cancellation fees and fees that are levied on customers who fail to use a certain amount of electricity each month.

Sources

Does it Pay to Switch from ComEd?” Daily Herald, June 6, 2011.

Electric Company ‘Slamming’ and How to Prevent it in Texas

Tuesday October 25, 2011
Posted at 16:41

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If you live in a deregulated energy market in Texas, you can buy your electricity from one of several retail electric providers (REPs) that compete for your business. Having the power to choose which company you buy electricity from in Texas gives you the chance to shop around and find the best combination of price, customer service and other factors that can give you peace of mind while you save money off monthly electric bills.

Unfortunately, customers are sometimes signed up for electricity service without their knowledge or consent, an unscrupulous activity known as “slamming.” Slamming involves someone switching your REP without your permission. Electric customers usually don’t find out they’ve been slammed until they get a bill from a different electric company than the one they’re supposed to be getting their electricity from.

Customer Rights for Resolving Slamming

Fortunately, slamming is prohibited in Texas and, once a customer has notified their REP of the unauthorized switch, there’s a process established by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to help customers who’ve been slammed:

  • The unauthorized REP must return the customer to their original REP as quickly as possible.
  • The unauthorized REP must fix any billing issues, including paying for all transmission and distribution charges associated with returning the customer to their original REP.
  • The unauthorized REP must refund, within five days, all charges paid by the customer for the period of time that the customer was with the unauthorized REP.
  • The customer will pay for electricity used during the period of time that he or she was with the unauthorized REP at a rate no higher than the rate the customer would have paid to the original REP if the unauthorized switch had not occurred.

How to Prevent Slamming

There are several things that the PUCT recommends electric customers do to avoid being slammed:

  • Be aware of promotions offering discounts on your electric bill and be careful when signing any document. Although unintended, your signature on a document may be interpreted as an agreement to switch.
  • Be aware of telemarketers or sales vendors who promise free gifts, lowered rates or better service for switching.
  • Read your electric bill carefully each month.
  • Know the name of the electric company that provides your electric service.
  • Never sign any document without reading it thoroughly.
  • Designate one person in your household who is authorized to make changes to your electric service.
  • Print order conformation page if order was placed online.
  • Read the fine print for the terms of service and electricity facts label
    • If you are being visited by a door-to-door rep, ask for identification.
    • To prevent identity theft, do not share your Social Security number or driver’s license number.
    • Do not share copy of energy bill unless you have verified the identity of the door-to-door rep.
  • Know when your contract with your REP is set to expire. Watch for things like an early termination fee on your electric bill, which may indicate that you’ve been slammed if you haven’t initiated a switch to another REP.
  • Notify your REP immediately if you receive a phone call or notice to “verify” a change in your electric service that you didn’t authorize.
  • Notify your REP immediately if you fail to receive your regular monthly electric bill or receive an electric bill at your address in someone else’s name.

A Word on Electricity Marketing

The PUCT has customer protection rules that regulate the marketing of electricity supply, including online marketing, telemarketing and door-to-door sales:

  • Keep in mind that agents or brokers may earn commissions for getting you to switch to a REP they represent.
  • Every door-to-door salesperson is required to wear a badge with the REP’s name, PUCT certificate number and a toll-free number you can call to verify the salesperson is authorized by the REP.
  • Door-to-door salespeople should obey no-solicitation signs.

Slamming is rare, but it happens. The best way to protect yourself from slamming and prevent it from happening to you is to be attentive when dealing with certain electricity marketers, know your rights as an electric customer and act quickly to address any concerns you may have about being slammed.

If you think you’re the victim of slamming, or you would like to report a REP or marketer, you can file a complaint by calling the PUCT toll-free at 888782.8477.

Sources

Chapter 25 — Substantive Rules Applicable to Electric Service Providers; Subchapter R. — Customer Protection Rules for Retail Electric Service,” Public Utility Commission of Texas, June 1, 2004.

Public Utility Commission of Texas, “Unauthorized Switching of Your Retail Electric Provider.”

Texas Electric Choice Education Program, “FAQs.”

Texas Electric Choice Education Program, “Your Rights.”