Residents and businesses that pay directly for their electricity (ratepayers) can use Energy Choice DC to learn more about their purchasing options and the companies that provide electricity aggregation services in the District. Ratepayers connect with a broker who will collect necessary information from them and use that information to seek competitive pricing on electricity, including options for conventional electricity and electricity generated from renewable sources. The broker then presents the negotiated rate to ratepayers, who sign a contract with the selected third-party supplier, for a term of one to three years, and pay a monthly electricity bill based on a consistent rate during that period.
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.
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.