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.
The world's first public electricity supply was provided in late 1881, when the streets of the Surrey town of Godalming in the UK were lit with electric light. This system was powered from a water wheel on the River Wey, which drove a Siemens alternator that supplied a number of arc lamps within the town. This supply scheme also provided electricity to a number of shops and premises to light 34 incandescent Swan light bulbs.
Before 1997, all energy services were provided by the utility with prices regulated by the Public Utility Commission to match the wholesale price of energy – subject to change as often as once a month. Following the law’s passage, however, prices became “deregulated”, meaning alternative suppliers could provide energy supply at different rates than the PUC-approved price of energy.
Know that Green Mountain’s cheapest advertised plans are all variable rate plans. “Pollution Free,” “Pollution Free Try 3,” or “SolarSPARC 10 Try 3” all advertise a great initial rate — a full cent below Pennsylvania’s 8.49 cent “price to compare” — but its variable rates means the company can raise them at any time. The two “Try 3” plans just lock in the low introductory rate for three months instead of one. The flipside of fixed rate: Should prices fall, you’ll be locked into a contract with a constant, elevated rate for two more months.
Electric bills for customers in the Houston area can more than double in summer months, mainly because air conditioning. Not coincidentally, electric rates also rise in the summer months because of this increase in demand. The most dramatic rate increases occur in month-to-month plans, but electric rates do increase across the board for all fixed-rate contract lengths.
It was later on in the year in September 1882 that Edison opened the Pearl Street Power Station in New York City and again it was a DC supply. It was for this reason that the generation was close to or on the consumer's premises as Edison had no means of voltage conversion. The voltage chosen for any electrical system is a compromise. For a given amount of power transmitted, increasing the voltage reduces the current and therefore reduces the required wire thickness. Unfortunately it also increases the danger from direct contact and increases the required insulation thickness. Furthermore, some load types were difficult or impossible to make work with higher voltages. The overall effect was that Edison's system required power stations to be within a mile of the consumers. While this could work in city centres, it would be unable to economically supply suburbs with power.
2. Fraud: Too many people have been victimized by glib sales reps with promises of cheap electricity flowing in an unending stream only to discover that, as is so often true, “it ain’t necessarily so”. They’ve been locked into unwanted term contracts or there’s a catch – some utilities will give you the great rate only if you meet a usage minimum; basically, the “rate” is, in actuality, a “bulk purchase” discounted fee – or they paid a deposit never to hear from the rep again.
Even though customers in deregulated Texas markets routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated and regulated market has shrunk to 8.8 percent. In 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
The mid to late 1880s saw the introduction of alternating current (AC) systems in Europe and the U.S. AC power had an advantage in that transformers, installed at power stations, could be used to raise the voltage from the generators, and transformers at local substations could reduce voltage to supply loads. Increasing the voltage reduced the current in the transmission and distribution lines and hence the size of conductors and distribution losses. This made it more economical to distribute power over long distances. Generators (such as hydroelectric sites) could be located far from the loads. AC and DC competed for a while, during a period called the War of Currents. The DC system was able to claim slightly greater safety, but this difference was not great enough to overwhelm the enormous technical and economic advantages of alternating current which eventually won out.