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.
The mid to late 1880s saw the introduction of alternating current (AC) systems in Europe and the U.S. AC power had an advantage in that transformers, installed at power stations, could be used to raise the voltage from the generators, and transformers at local substations could reduce voltage to supply loads. Increasing the voltage reduced the current in the transmission and distribution lines and hence the size of conductors and distribution losses. This made it more economical to distribute power over long distances. Generators (such as hydroelectric sites) could be located far from the loads. AC and DC competed for a while, during a period called the War of Currents. The DC system was able to claim slightly greater safety, but this difference was not great enough to overwhelm the enormous technical and economic advantages of alternating current which eventually won out.
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.
Keeping on top: With deregulation, a whole host of electric resellers jumped into the market because there’s a whole lot of electricity to sell: if Texas were a country, it’d be the 11th largest electricity consumer in the world! Just by itself, it uses as much electricity as Spain or Great Britain! That means there’s a whole lot of information you have to find, absorb, and process to make sure you’re getting the best rate for your needs.
To make reducing your usage and saving money on electricity even easier, we have an advanced online account dashboard available for all our residential electricity customers. You can go there anytime to pay your bill, check your usage, change your personal information and learn more about offers we have that apply specifically to you. All customers can sign up for our Weekly Summary Email, which helps you stay on top of your usage every week. Plus, many customers are eligible to sign up for Degrees of Difference, which gives you a bill credit when you reduce your usage during designated high-demand time periods.
It is unlikely that you’ll see any change at all. You will be receiving the same electricity as you always have been, just from a different company. The only difference you definitely will see will be smaller charges for your electricity. By using our price comparison service you’ll be able to cut costs to your energy tariffs and save more money on electricity and gas.
In some states, utilities can also generate and sell electricity, but customers aren’t forced to buy the electricity from the utility company. They may choose from either the utility or available electricity providers. Before signing up for electricity service, we recommend checking the local utility’s electricity supply rate by checking their rates online or contacting them directly.
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.