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.
The organization of the electrical sector of a country or region varies depending on the economic system of the country. In some places, all electric power generation, transmission and distribution is provided by a government controlled organization. Other regions have private or investor-owned utility companies, city or municipally owned companies, cooperative companies owned by their own customers, or combinations. Generation, transmission and distribution may be offered by a single company, or different organizations may provide each of these portions of the system.
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.
Of course, choosing a new electricity supplier or natural gas supplier does not mean you are replacing your utility. Your utility will still deliver whatever energy supply you choose, safely and reliably. Since your utility company depends on where you live, you don't have to worry about choosing a utility company. In general, utilities are responsible for maintaining the energy infrastructure. If you experience a power outage or see a downed power line, call your utility company. These are listed in the Utility Companies column below.