40 Percent of CL&P Customers Have Switched to a Retail Electricity Supplier

CLP Customers are Switching Electricity ProvidersMore and more electricity customers in Connecticut are discovering the benefits of switching to a retail electricity supplier.

Over 40 percent of residential customers that have their electricity delivered by Connecticut Lighting & Power (CL&P) now buy their electricity from a retail electricity supplier, according to the most recent data released by the utility. That’s 446,000 Connecticut homes that have already switched.

“Increasingly, electricity customers are switching their electricity supply from their utilities to retail suppliers as more people begin to understand the advantages of switching, which can include the ability to lock in lower electricity prices for extended periods,” said Jim Head, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Spark Energy. “More people are also aware of how electricity deregulation works in Connecticut— even though the utility will still deliver electricity to their homes, people can shop around and buy electricity from any retail electricity supplier they choose that services their area.”

Head said that now may be a good time for electricity customers to lock in electricity prices. “It’s always smart to shop around for a good deal, and smart shoppers across Connecticut are choosing Spark Energy,” said Head. “With summer prices coming soon, families everywhere could benefit from locking in a low fixed electricity price with a retail electricity supplier like Spark Energy.”

Sources

Connecticut Light & Power, “Summary Data: Electric Supplier MWh Load and Customer Count,” March 19, 2012.

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.”

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.

Report: Energy Deregulation Brings Lower Rates and Better Services

Friday January 27, 2012
Posted at 11:10

States that have allowed retail electric suppliers to compete for customers have seen increased product and service innovation compared to regulated states with monopoly utilities that both supply electricity and deliver it to customers’ homes and businesses, according to a recently released report.

The 2011 Annual Baseline Assessment of Choice in Canada and the United States (ABACCUS) report, by Distributed Energy Financial Group LLC (DEFG), found that electricity choice is “thriving and growing” among commercial, industrial and residential customers in many deregulated U.S. states and Canadian provinces “because well-structured retail electric markets foster the introduction of new products and services that are not available in traditional monopoly areas.”

The report cited competition for customers among retail electricity suppliers as the driving force behind a growing list of energy management options that customers are responding to favorably. Nat Treadway, DEFG managing partner and lead author of the report, said in a statement that the research clearly showed that well-structured deregulated electricity markets were delivering new and better services at lower costs than ever before. “We are seeing new companies, new investments in local economies, and the development of a new energy services marketplace,” Treadway said.

Residential electricity customers in deregulated markets are benefitting from electric choice and are in a position to take advantage of additional benefits from new technology as it is implemented, the report stated. Smart grid infrastructure technologies like advanced smart meters, communications and control devices and in-home electricity usage displays were cited as examples of technologies that have allowed retail energy suppliers to develop pricing and service choices that benefit consumers. Electric choice was also credited for helping the public address goals related to customer support, energy efficiency, job creation and the environment.

According to the report, consumers “now have more choices, more information and better ways to control their energy bills and increase the value of electric service in their lives.”

The report also highlighted several trends in 2011, including declining retail power prices, an increase of customer protections and the development of low-income assistance programs and energy efficiency and demand-response programs. Electricity choice also led to dramatic investments in renewable energy. In fact, 80 percent of U.S. installed wind capacity was found to be located in deregulated electricity markets.

The scorecard that the ABACCUS report uses to qualify the data it collects on deregulated electricity markets helps U.S. policymakers understand how their decisions positively or negatively affect the development of those markets.

Of the 18 deregulated electricity markets analyzed in the report, Texas’ competitive market ranked first in overall excellence for the fifth consecutive year. The other two markets given “Excellent” ratings were New York (2nd) and Pennsylvania (3rd). Illinois scored 7th with a “Good” rating. California came in last place with a rating of “Unsatisfactory.”

Sources

Competitive Electricity Markets Spur Consumer-Focused Innovations,” Distributed Energy Financial Group press release, Nov. 30, 2011.

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.

How Utility Deregulation Benefits Connecticut Electricity Customers

Wednesday January 25, 2012
Posted at 11:50

If you live in Connecticut, then you probably live in a deregulated electricity area. According to the New England Energy Alliance (NEAA), that’s a good thing, both for electricity customers and the environment.

What is electric deregulation?

A national movement to deregulate public utilities, commonly referred to as electric restructuring, began in the early 1990s. Prior to then, most electric utilities were monopolies, regulated by state utility commissions. The utilities handled everything. They generated and/or bought electricity, sold it to customers and delivered it to customers’ homes.

The movement behind deregulation suggested that the utilities should be broken up. Under deregulation, other companies would be allowed to generate electricity and still other companies would be allowed to buy electricity from the generators and sell it directly to customers. The role of utilities would change. In deregulated markets, the utilities would simply take electricity from the generators, transmit it to the grid and deliver it to customers’ homes. The utilities would only charge for the distribution of electricity, although they could still sell electricity — at a price set by state regulators — if customers didn’t want to switch to a competing electricity supplier.

Deregulation was meant to encourage competition among multiple electricity suppliers, which would ultimately drive down energy prices and help customers save money on monthly electric bills.

Connecticut began to deregulate in 1998 when the state legislature passed a law to restructure the utilities. On Jan. 1, 2000, the law went in to effect and utilities such as Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) and The United Illuminating Company (UI) were broken up and competing suppliers were allowed to enter the market.

Now, over ten years later, Connecticut electricity customers have more choices and greater access to cleaner energy than ever before, according to the NEAA.

The Five Main Benefits of Electric Deregulation in Connecticut

According to an NEAA report released last year, it is “clear that the competitive marketplace is working to the benefit of both customers and the environment.” The report cited five main achievements since deregulation began, including more power, more choice, higher efficiency, cleaner air and the development of new clean energy resources.

More Power

As of last April, more than 4,000 megawatts of new electricity generation facilities were in the works in Connecticut, thanks to deregulation. The NEAA noted that when all of that power comes online, it will increase the state’s electricity output by 50 percent and will further boost competition, reduce prices and create jobs.

More Choice

From 2005 to 2010, the percentage of Connecticut electricity customers who bought their electricity from competitive suppliers grew by triple digits. By the time the report was issued, 35 alternative electricity suppliers — investing substantial capital and employing hundreds of residents — served 20 percent of all state customers and supplied half of all electricity sold in the state.

Higher Efficiency

Deregulation has paved the way for consumer-funded efficiency programs provided by utilities that have conserved more than 400 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. That’s enough to power over 47,000 homes annually.

Cleaner Air

Deregulation has also spurred the construction of highly efficient natural gas power plants for generating electricity, as well as a switch to cleaner fuels in existing power plants. As a result, fewer greenhouse gasses have been emitted. Between 2005 and 2010, carbon dioxide emissions from power plants decreased 20 percent. Additionally, nitrogen oxide fell by 62 percent and sulfur dioxide by 77 percent.

New Clean Energy Resources

Because of deregulation, many new types of “greener” electricity generation technologies are being developed. Hydropower, wind energy and biomass are all contributing to the state’s goal of generating 27 percent of Connecticut’s entire energy production by the year 2020.

Sources

NEEA: CT Benefits From Electric Deregulation,” Hartford Business Journal, Apr. 28, 2010.

Connecticut Light & Power, “CL&P History.”

Electric Deregulation Has Become a Big Success in Texas

Wednesday January 18, 2012
Posted at 14:55

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After a decade of weathering the storm of residential electric deregulation in Texas, consumers in the state’s competitive markets are finally seeing the promise of deregulation — a lot of power, a lot of choice and cheap electricity rates.

Although deregulation in Texas has been a roller coaster at times, retail electric providers are able to offer cheap electricity in Houston and other competitive markets in the state for less than the national average due to private investment in natural gas plants, diversified electric generation and an independent electric grid.

The Roller Coaster of Deregulation and Natural Gas Prices

After the state’s monopolistic utilities were deregulated and broken up in 2002, private investors, not consumers, put up tens of billions of dollars for new electricity generation, mostly for natural gas plants. The new plants were cheaper to build and didn’t come with the opposition of coal or nuclear plants, operated about a third more efficiently than existing plants and burned clean.

Investors hit the lottery during the early years of deregulation when enormous gas fields were discovered in places like the Barnett Shale. The huge supply has ultimately led to lower natural gas prices, which play a key role in the ability of energy providers to offer cheap electricity rates.

But electric rates haven’t always been so low. Hurricane Katrina, power congestion due to poor grid management and other issues caused natural gas prices to soar in 2007, to five times the price of natural gas in 2002, when deregulation began. In summer 2008, natural gas prices peaked, doubling from 2007 levels, causing electric rates to range from 13 to 27 cents per kilowatt hour. By comparison, the national average was about 10 cents per kilowatt hour.

Now, however, gas prices have fallen again and electric rates have fallen with them. Since their peak in 2008, electric rates have fallen about 28 percent, according to industry data. In 2010, the average U.S. electric rate was 11.58 cents per kilowatt hour. That same year, there were 33 offers in North Texas alone for electric rates less than 11.58 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the state’s Public Utility Commission.

As of the writing of this post, the Power to Choose website at www.powertochoose.com, lists more than 57 offers of one-year fixed-rate plans from alternative retail electric companies for less than 10 cents per kilowatt hour.

Deregulation Encouraged Development of Wind Power

Texas has a more expensive mix of fuels for electricity generation than other states, primarily because it relies heavily on natural gas over coal and nuclear — coal and nuclear provided almost 65 percent of electricity nationally, but just 53 percent for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which is responsible for operating the state’s electric grid and managing its deregulated market.

However, wind power — another benefit of deregulation — is playing a more important role in generating electricity for Texas consumers, a move that ironically is helping lower electric rates by replacing natural gas. As a result of deregulation, Texas, which would come in as number six on the list of highest energy producing countries if it were an independent nation, now gets 8 percent of its energy from wind and is a global leader in wind power development.

An Independent Electric Grid Has Meant More Progress

Less regulation and oversight of an independent grid that can respond quickly to market fluctuations and investment has helped pave the way for Texas to receive the major benefits of deregulation. In most states, grid operators face major obstacles in terms of making changes; multiple public utility commissions — and a federal agency — provide layers of oversight, which can delay progress. But that isn’t the case in Texas.

Legislators in Austin have been fairly quiet about electricity regulation in the state, except for a few years ago when electric rates were sky high and again in February when record freezes lead to rolling blackouts and calls for energy conservation.

“We have a postage-stamp process for electricity,” said Mark Armentrout, head of the Texas Institute, a sustainable-technology research firm based at the University of Texas at Dallas, and former ERCOT board member, in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

As a result of a hands-off approach to energy deregulation, Texas has been able to increase energy production and infrastructure relatively easily. Since 1999, the state has added 45,000 megawatts of new electricity generation, while decommissioning 136 older, less energy-efficient plants and has begun a $5 billion transmission expansion for growing wind power generation according to ERCOT. And the state has been recognized for providing increased options for consumers: for the fifth consecutive year, Texas has been identified as the competitive retail market leader in ABACCUS, the Annual Baseline Assessment of Choice in Canada and the United States, which gauges competition in electricity.

Sources

How Electricity Deregulation Has Paid Off For Texas,” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 28, 2011.

Blown Away: Wind Power Makes Electricity Cheaper in Texas,” The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 10, 2009.

Deregulation Jolts Texas Electric Bills,” The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2008.

Competitive Electricity Markets Spur Consumer-Focused Innovations,” Distributed Energy Financial Group, November 30, 2011.

How Utility Deregulation Benefits Connecticut Electricity Customers

Monday January 16, 2012
Posted at 13:42

If you live in Connecticut, then you probably live in a deregulated electricity area. According to the New England Energy Alliance (NEAA), that’s a good thing, both for electricity customers and the environment.

What is electric deregulation?

A national movement to deregulate public utilities, commonly referred to as electric restructuring, began in the early 1990s. Prior to then, most electric utilities were monopolies, regulated by state utility commissions. The utilities handled everything. They generated and/or bought electricity, sold it to customers and delivered it to customers’ homes.

The movement behind deregulation suggested that the utilities should be broken up. Under deregulation, other companies would be allowed to generate electricity and still other companies would be allowed to buy electricity from the generators and sell it directly to customers. The role of utilities would change. In deregulated markets, the utilities would simply take electricity from the generators, transmit it to the grid and deliver it to customers’ homes. The utilities would only charge for the distribution of electricity, although they could still sell electricity — at a price set by state regulators — if customers didn’t want to switch to a competing electricity supplier.

Deregulation was meant to encourage competition among multiple electricity suppliers, which would ultimately drive down energy prices and help customers save money on monthly electric bills.

Connecticut began to deregulate in 1998 when the state legislature passed a law to restructure the utilities. On Jan. 1, 2000, the law went in to effect and utilities such as Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) and The United Illuminating Company (UI) were broken up and competing suppliers were allowed to enter the market.

Now, over ten years later, Connecticut electricity customers have more choices and greater access to cleaner energy than ever before, according to the NEAA.

The Five Main Benefits of Electric Deregulation in Connecticut

According to an NEAA report released last year, it is “clear that the competitive marketplace is working to the benefit of both customers and the environment.” The report cited five main achievements since deregulation began, including more power, more choice, higher efficiency, cleaner air and the development of new clean energy resources.

More Power

As of last April, more than 4,000 megawatts of new electricity generation facilities were in the works in Connecticut, thanks to deregulation. The NEAA noted that when all of that power comes online, it will increase the state’s electricity output by 50 percent and will further boost competition, reduce prices and create jobs.

More Choice

From 2005 to 2010, the percentage of Connecticut electricity customers who bought their electricity from competitive suppliers grew by triple digits. By the time the report was issued, 35 alternative electricity suppliers — investing substantial capital and employing hundreds of residents — served 20 percent of all state customers and supplied half of all electricity sold in the state.

Higher Efficiency

Deregulation has paved the way for consumer-funded efficiency programs provided by utilities that have conserved more than 400 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. That’s enough to power over 47,000 homes annually.

Cleaner Air

Deregulation has also spurred the construction of highly efficient natural gas power plants for generating electricity, as well as a switch to cleaner fuels in existing power plants. As a result, fewer greenhouse gasses have been emitted. Between 2005 and 2010, carbon dioxide emissions from power plants decreased 20 percent. Additionally, nitrogen oxide fell by 62 percent and sulfur dioxide by 77 percent.

New Clean Energy Resources

Because of deregulation, many new types of “greener” electricity generation technologies are being developed. Hydropower, wind energy and biomass are all contributing to the state’s goal of generating 27 percent of Connecticut’s entire energy production by the year 2020.

Sources

NEEA: CT Benefits From Electric Deregulation,” Hartford Business Journal, Apr. 28, 2010.

Connecticut Light & Power, “CL&P History.”

40 Percent of PPL Customers Have Switched Electric Suppliers Since 2010

Wednesday September 7, 2011
Posted at 08:11

Since the electric industry in Pennsylvania was deregulated at the beginning of 2010, almost 40 percent of PPL Electric Utilities’ residential customers have switched to an alternative retail electric supplier, according to data recently released by the state Public Utility Commission.

Before deregulation, PPL was a monopoly. Customers in PPL’s service territory, which stretches across six regions in the western half of Pennsylvania, were forced to buy electricity from the utility at regulated prices and the utility, in turn, was responsible for distributing electricity to customers’ homes.

After deregulation, other electric companies were allowed to compete with PPL and each other to sell electricity. Customers could choose to buy their electricity from PPL at regulated prices or switch to a retail electric supplier. Meanwhile, PPL was tasked with continuing to distribute electricity to residents in its territory, no matter where customers chose to buy it.

Today, customers in PPL’s service territory have the power to choose which company they buy electricity from, but not which company distributes the electricity to their homes.

Public Utility Commission spokeswoman Denise McCracken said that while the savings customers get by switching from PPL to retail electric suppliers may not look like much at first, the 500,000 customers who switched saved an average of $100 a year.

Sources

PPL Loses 40% of Its Residential Base Since Deregulation,” The Daily Item, Aug. 11, 2011.

When I Switch Electric Suppliers, What Happens to My Meter?

You can change to a different electricity supplier, but your meter stays the same

When electric customers think about switching electric suppliers in order to save money on monthly electric bills, one of the questions they ask is, “what happens to my meter?”

Regardless of the type of switch — either from an electric utility to a retail electric supplier or from one retail electric supplier to another — the answer is: nothing. The meter stays right where it is, unchanged, and electric customers have nothing to worry about.

Meters are owned, operated, serviced and read by the electric utility that distributes electricity to homes (and is responsible for other equipment, such as wires, poles and transformers). Each meter is individually matched to a particular home and is not altered unless the electric utility decides to, say, repair the meter or upgrade it as part of a system-wide transition to Smart Meters.

Customers who switch electric suppliers will still contact their utility for things like outages, downed power lines or to report problems with their meters.