Energy deregulation in Illinois began in the mid-1990s with electricity and natural gas legislation that would allow energy customers to shop around for the supply portion of their energy bills. Most of the state is now deregulated, including the service areas of ComEd and Ameren, the state’s two largest public utilities.
Before deregulation, Illinois customers were required to purchase their electricity from the default utility – the utility that serves their respective areas and sends customers their bills. Customers were required to pay rates established by the utility, and these rates were subject to fluctuate at any given time.
Deregulation brought about energy choice via “retail energy provider” companies that complete with each other to supply energy to customers. No matter where your supply comes from, transmission and distribution is serviced and charged to you by your default utility, which is regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
Treat Electricity and Natural Gas Providers Separately When Choosing
A few energy providers offer both electricity and natural gas supply, but you should shop for these “commodities” separately. You may assume that having the same natural gas and electric supplier would improve service, increase reliability, or provide cost savings, but this is not the case.
Retail energy providers bid for energy supply from companies that generate energy. This means that each energy provider will bid for electricity and natural gas separately and then resell the energy to you for a profit. Therefore, there is no reason to assume that a provider will have the best rates for BOTH natural gas and electricity. Furthermore, no matter who supplies your electricity, the service, reliability and pricing of receiving your energy does not change since it is the responsibility of the utilities.
Select the Best Energy Provider for Your Needs
Switching energy providers is fast and easy, but there are several key factors that you should look for before choosing a new provider. Whether you are shopping for electricity or natural gas, be sure to ask:
- Is the energy provider regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission?
- Is the energy provider’s rate lower than what you’re currently paying (the Price-to-Compare)?
- The Price-to-Compare for both electricity and natural gas can be found on your utility bill.
- Electricity is expressed in “cents per kilowatt hour” (kWh), and natural gas is expressed in either “hundred cubic feet” (ccf) or “therms”. (To convert ccf to therms, multiply the ccf by 1.025).
- Does the provider offer low fixed rates?
- Variable rates are subject to large fluctuations, while fixed rates lock in low prices for the duration of the contract.
- Is the length of the contract comfortable for you and your energy needs?
- 3, 6, 12, and 18-month contract lengths are common.
- Are there any incentives or bonuses for switching?
- Are there any additional fees for early contract termination?
Researching all available retail energy providers is a daunting task, since there are dozens of electric and natural gas providers to choose from.
Here at ElectricityRates.com, we’ve developed a FREE Compare & Switch tool that eliminates most of this time-consuming process to find a retail electricity provider. Type in your Zip Code into the orange box at the top of this page and select your utility. You’ll then be presented with the best available options in your area. Follow the checklist above to choose the plan that best fits your energy needs.
The switching process is fast and easy once you’ve selected your new provider. Simply call your new provider and ask to switch. Be sure to have a recent utility bill with your account information on hand. The customer service representative will complete the process for you, so there’s no need to contact your utility (or your previous retail energy provider). You’ll see the new provider on your utility bill within one to two billing cycles.