If you live in the greater Houston area, there are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business. Many of these providers have websites that are confusing and difficult to navigate, their rates buried in misleading advertising and dense jargon. Who has the time to sort through and keep track of options across all these different sites?
But competition didn't necessarily end up cutting prices, according to the report. One contributing factor is confusion among customers as they try to choose among scores of retail electricity providers and the overwhelming variation of plans, leading many to just stick with familiar companies rather than look for better deals, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power .
We’ve done some of the work for you. We homed in on five of the biggest electric companies in Pennsylvania: Constellation Energy, Direct Energy, FirstEnergy Solutions, Green Mountain Energy, and Just Energy. We compared their plans, rates, special offers, and philanthropies, then dug into the contract fine print to uncover sneaky fees and the truth about discounts. Because most providers offer a range of options, we also looked at the companies behind the plans — paying attention to their corporate impact, customer service reputation, and customer resources in particular.
Over a year, you could save nearly $100 by choosing the green plan. But it’s important to note that Constellation’s attractive initial rates will very likely not be around for a second year. According to the customer reviews on Consumer Affairs, this new contract usually jacks up the price. It offers great rates for new customers, but it may not be worth it to stick with them for more than an initial contract.
Still, we like that if you choose to re-up with FirstEnergy again at the end of your initial term, you won’t have to worry whether you’re enrolling at an expensive time of year. First, since it offers just two options, constant for years, its prices are set with the long haul in mind. Second, since the electricity grid in Pennsylvania is more taxed during winter than any other season (space heating accounts for 50 percent of household electricity consumption in PA; air conditioning just three percent), signing up in summer means prices won’t be temporarily inflated.
In deregulated markets such as Texas and Maryland, the state government may require the incumbent utility energy provider to allow for unlimited competition within the marketplace, where the consumer is free to choose any electricity provider. Electricity provider switching is only practical if a customer is either buying from a utility or is at the end of a fixed-price contract with a provider.
In summary, fixed-rate plans provide a level of certainty and stability in your energy charge since the price will not fluctuate over the life of your contract. If prices suddenly spike, you are protected because your rate is locked in. The flip side is that if rates drop over the life of your contract, you’ll be stuck paying the higher rate. You can incur steep cancellation fees if you change electricity plans or providers before the end of your contract term.