3. Customer service: When the only utility available has lousy customer service, nobody is surprised. They don’t even pretend to care – they know they have you over a barrel. With all these new players in town, however, it’s a slap in the face to be treated like royalty until you’ve signed on the dotted line and now they won’t even return your calls or the person on the phone can’t string three English words together or if he does speak English, he’s brand new and panicking trying to pull up your account information.
Once you sign up for your new energy plan, your local utility will be notified of the change and begin your service from the alternative supplier at the beginning of your next billing cycle. Upon starting your energy supply service, your utility company will include this charge on your energy bill and continue to charge for the delivery service portion of your bill. Why? Because although your supplier may offer you a competitive rate for electricity supply, your utility is still in charge of the infrastructure that delivers energy to your home – such as power lines and energy meters.
The Customer Information List includes the name on your electric account (corporate name, where applicable), your mailing and service addresses, monthly meter reading date, and rate class. In addition, your monthly kilowatt-hour usage (and demand where applicable) for the previous twelve months at your current location will be included. The list will be updated on a quarterly basis.
For example, if you use a small amount of energy each month, you expect to be rewarded — right? Unfortunately, nearly all electricity plans from Texas REPs are advertised as costing more per kWh the less electricity you use. It’s a little like buying in bulk: Providers often discount your bill when you cross certain kWh thresholds. For instance, one 12-month plan from StarTex Power quotes 8.1 cents per kWh for 1,000 kWh a month and 8.8 cents for 2,000 kWh per month, but 12.1 cents for 500 kWh per month. Why the difference? Customers get $35 back each month if they pass 1,000 kWh of use, and another $15 back per month if they cross 2,000 kWh. In this case, using half as much electricity as your neighbor on the same plan wouldn’t get you half the bill.
Utilities, or energy companies, in Maryland offer customers information to know how much they are spending on electric supply each month. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., for example, provides a tool known as the Standard Offer Service, which shows customers how much they can expect to pay for energy supply each month. Current supply rates show that BGE customers will pay 8.225 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). ChooseEnergy.com, as of mid-May, offers a 36-month plan that could save 13 percent on that rate now.
Customers can find deals in competitive electricity markets if they take the time and effort to look at web sites such as powertochoose.org, the official comparison shopping site of the Public Utility Commission. The study cited a PUC survey of retail electricity offerings in Houston that showed nine deals in March that were lower than the regulated price of electricity in San Antonio.
1. Contracts: Before, there were no contracts. You signed up or you didn’t. When it’s the only game in town, you have to play by their rules. Nowadays, you’ll see these ultra-fabulous rates bandied about but it’s only by carefully scrutinizing the fine print that you’ll discover those wonderful rates come with a one-year lock-down or other catches.