How does that work? Spark Energy buys electricity and competes in the market for the best price -- a competition that ultimately drives prices down and allows us to deliver more value for your money. In Texas, switching to a different electricity provider is kind of like changing to a different long distance company. When you switch to Spark Energy, the utility will continue to deliver electricity to your home but Spark Energy will handle all the billing, including the utility’s delivery fees and the electricity you actually use.
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.
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According to a 2016 J.D. Power national report, switching from the utility company to an REP is not as attractive as it once was. Deregulated markets aim to drive down costs and encourage innovation but has really only succeeded in the second — the price gap between utility rates and retail rates has actually been closing. But deregulation has been successful in championing green energy and improving customer service. This improvement shows up in some impressively high J.D. Power ratings.
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.
As far as plan options offered by your local utility go, you are not spoiled for choice. Energy companies in Pennsylvania offer one plan with little to no incentive – other than rebates for owning energy efficient appliances. Energy providers, on the other hand, might offer attractive benefits you didn’t know were available with your supply service.
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.