Since the 1990s, many regions have opened up the generation and distribution of electric power to provide a more competitive electricity market. While such markets can be abusively manipulated with consequent adverse price and reliability impact to consumers, generally competitive production of electrical energy leads to worthwhile improvements in efficiency. However, transmission and distribution are harder problems since returns on investment are not as easy to find.
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 .
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.
All forms of electricity generation have positive and negative aspects. Technology will probably eventually declare the most preferred forms, but in a market economy, the options with less overall costs generally will be chosen above other sources. It is not clear yet which form can best meet the necessary energy demands or which process can best solve the demand for electricity. There are indications that renewable energy and distributed generation are becoming more viable in economic terms. A diverse mix of generation sources reduces the risks of electricity price spikes.
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.
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.
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.