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Compare Providers

Every electricity provider is ultimately providing you with the same commodity: electric supply. Not much will change about the delivery, which is still performed by your local utility. The upshot is that when you compare electricity providers, you are mostly looking for the small differences between plans that will save you money and hassle over time.

Remember that a single electric provider may have a number of different plans for you to choose from, and that these change from area to area. You do not like options A, B, and C, but maybe D is perfect. Make sure you investigate all of a company’s plans before you rule it out from your search.

Supply Rate

The most important thing that you will want to look for in order to lower your electric bill is a lower electric supply rate than you are currently paying through your utility (or your current retail electricity provider). What the utility charges you is called the “Price-to-Compare”, and this can be found on your most recent electric bill under “Generation Charges” or “Supply Charges”.  The rate will be expressed in cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), and may appear something like 8.945 cents/kWh. 

View a list of major U.S. utilities and how to find the supply charges on their respective bills.

Features

The most important features of each contract are length, rate changes, signup bonuses, and electricity source.

  • Length is straightforward. Most companies offer a range of lengths, and some allow will give you service without requiring any commitment at all.
  • How the rate changes is one of the most important elements of a contract. The rate may stay the same over the course of the contract, or it may change from month to month according to the market. Some companies offer more unique plans that fall somewhere between these two options.
  • Signup bonuses are a common technique that companies use to attract new business. This bonus might be as simple as a discounted rate on the first month or two of electricity. Some companies offer more exotic rewards like frequent flier miles or package deals for some new technology. (Make sure to put the whole arrangement in perspective when you sign a contract; don’t lock yourself into a bad deal just because the bonus looks good!)
  • Some companies offer you control over where your energy comes from. Maybe you want to ensure that your electricity supply comes from all green sources, or even exclusively from your favorite wind farm. This is one area where the company can make a big difference. Some companies offer no green plans; others offer contracts involving some percentage of ambiguous renewable sources. There are still other companies that deal exclusively with renewable energy, and can tell you exactly where your electricity is coming from.

Types of Providers

What different companies are out there offering alternative electricity plans to consumers? The answer is: lots. It’s a huge market, and many different businesses are working within it.

There are large companies operating everywhere in North America that want to sign you up. These often have smaller brands that they use to market themselves locally. These companies are by necessity a little more generic, but sometimes they have the means to offer you an impressive range of possible plans.

There are tiny companies that represent small energy collectives in your area. These can be non-profits interested only in distributing energy where it’s needed and doing so in a way that’s environmentally responsible.

Some of these companies have been around for decades; many others have sprung up recently in response to the newly available opportunities.

Compare

What these providers have in common is that they’re competing to sell you electricity. This is a very simple commodity, and it’s being routed through your local utility. That means you don’t have to consider whether the company is good at delivering electricity or installing machines or resolving blackouts. You just have to run some basic calculations on whether or not they’re selling you a good contract. Once you find a good deal, all you have to do is call the provider or fill out an online form.

View a full list of questions to ask retail electricity providers.