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.
If you would rather have a steady rate and not think about twice about starting a load of laundry at 6:30pm versus 7:30pm, Direct Energy’s standard, 12-month, fixed-rate plan Live Brighter runs at an affordable 7.99 cents per kWh. Again, using 1,000 kWh per month would add up to a yearly total of $958.80 — higher than both Free Nights and Free Weekends, but also a lot simpler.
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.
Every single energy supplier in the UK is regulated by Ofgem, the industry regulator. This means that the smaller, lesser-known companies have to follow exactly the same rules as the bigger, more established ones. If a company goes bust, you’ll be covered by Ofgem – they’ll ensure your supply isn’t cut off, and they’ll appoint a new supplier to take over your tariff.
The consumer has the choice between buying from their local utility (Local Distribution Company - LDC) or from one of the deregulated suppliers. There is a large range of contract options from a variable price to 1,3 or 5 year fixed prices. Electricity provider switching is difficult once the consumer is in one of these contracts, unless they are close to the end of a fixed price contract. However, as of January 2010 there is a maximum termination penalty allowed.
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.
†Offer is available to Texas residential customers who enroll using the Promotion Code “NIGHTSFREE”. Plan bills a monthly Base Charge, an Energy Charge, and passes through Utility Transmission and Distribution delivery charges. Energy Charges for usage consumed between 9pm and 7am each day is credited back on your bill. The utility charges, including delivery charges for night time hours, are passed through at cost and aggregated on your bill. See Electricity Facts Label for details.
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Another unwelcome side effect of not knowing your average monthly kWh usage level is that you may end up paying more than you expect. This can occur when a customer inadvertently shops an electric rate based on a higher usage level than they actually use. Electricity suppliers commonly advertise their electric rates associated with the highest (2000 kWh) usage levels since those tend to be the lowest rates.
Anyone on a standard rate tariff is at risk of seeing rising energy bills – so one of the best ways to protect from energy price increases is to switch to a fixed rate tariff. This means that for the duration of the deal, the cost of your energy and gas will be fixed. You may be able to switch to a cheaper fixed price tariff at any point, or you may have to pay a fee if you switch before the end of the deal – so check your paperwork.
Unlike with long-term plans, monthly, variable rate (no-contract) plans have no cancellation fees. You won’t have to pay a penalty if you decide to take your business elsewhere because you found a better deal. Plus, you won’t be left paying more than you should if the market rate for energy trends down. However, if the market prices rise, you’ll have to pay more than those who are in-contract.
The business model behind the electric utility has changed over the years playing a vital role in shaping the electricity industry into what it is today; from generation, transmission, distribution, to the final local retailing. This has occurred prominently since the reform of the electricity supply industry in England and Wales in 1990. In some countries, wholesale electricity markets operate, with generators and retailers trading electricity in a similar manner to shares and currency. As deregulation continues further, utilities are driven to sell their assets as the energy market follows in line with the gas market in use of the futures and spot markets and other financial arrangements. Even globalization with foreign purchases are taking place. One such purchase was when the UK’s National Grid, the largest private electric utility in the world, bought New England’s electric system for $3.2 billion. Between 1995 and 1997, seven of the 12 Regional Electric Companies (RECs) in England and Wales were bought by U.S. energy companies. Domestically, local electric and gas firms have merged operations as they saw the advantages of joint affiliation, especially with the reduced cost of joint-metering. Technological advances will take place in the competitive wholesale electric markets, such examples already being utilized include fuel cells used in space flight; aeroderivative gas turbines used in jet aircraft; solar engineering and photovoltaic systems; off-shore wind farms; and the communication advances spawned by the digital world, particularly with microprocessing which aids in monitoring and dispatching.