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What is Illinois Electric Choice?

It is sometimes hard for people to understand what certain words mean, especially when it comes to electric service providers. That's where we come in to help.  Choose Energy will help guide you through these decisions to help you make the best energy choice for your home or business. To help – let's go over some of the key terms that are used in the utility company industry.

One of the words that are used that many may not understand is Electric Utility. This is the company that provides not only the power generation, but also the delivery of said power. They may also sell services to other companies outside of their immediate area.

Pricing is also one of the most confusing issues that customers face. Fixed prices are a set amount of charges that are set per kilowatt hour. This monthly bill may vary even with fixed prices, because of the household or businesses individual usage. Variable rates are based on the market or price index at any given time, so rates may go up or down depending on the market demand, or the cost to purchase electricity that the supplier is charged. This has both advantages and disadvantages over fixed rates. One of the advantages is that if the overall market costs go down, so do the rates. When the demand goes up, as it does in the Winter or during warm Summers, these rates are going to go up, sometimes even higher than the highest fixed rates..

Another term that many people may not be familiar with is Real Time Pricing. Some companies like ComEd and Ameren use this to determine their hourly rates during the day. This is the same as a variable price, but a little different. These companies post these rates a day ahead, allowing consumers to plan their energy usage accordingly. For an example, if rates are lower during the late evening, or early in the morning, this may be a better time to run the dishwasher or dry your clothes. These appliances would usually draw more power, so if you time it right, you won't be charged as much as if you ran these appliances during the peak daytime hours, when market demand is going to be higher.

Illinois Electric Choice, Commonly Asked Questions

There are many different questions that people ask about Illinois Electric Choice.  One of them is if they can choose a supplier that is different than Ameren Illinois and ComEd. The answer is that you can, and there are several alternatives, even in areas where you live; you just have to look up which providers service your area.

Another frequently asked question is if changing over to another provider is going to affect their service. The answer is no, the electricity is still going to come to your home, along the same power lines, without any disruption in service. The only real changes are in the amount you pay per kilowatt hour, and where your electricity is coming from. If you don't want to get your energy from producers that are still using fossil fuels to make energy, and want a more green option, you can. In fact, if you look into it, there are also discounts, tax incentives, and other reasons why you should change over to renewable energy producers.

Another question at the top of the list is can you select different rate options if you don't want to change over to another provider? This answer too is yes. Both ComEd as well as Ameren Illinois offer hourly and real time pricing options, so the residential customers can better manage their electricity usage. For an example, the prices for electricity are posted one day ahead, so you can better plan when you are going to run your dishwasher, clothes drier, etc, when hourly prices are the lowest, saving you money.

If your power goes out, you will still call your electric utility that bills you for services, since they are still in charge of safe and reliable service to your home. How you will be billed depends on which supplier you choose. Some people may receive one bill, with the details from the supplier separately, or two bills, one from the supplier, one from the utility company. This is one of the things you are going to have to ask the company when you are looking for the best rates.

One of the biggest questions asked is if you will save money by switching over? It really depends on a number of things. The individual rates for kilowatt hours, charges, and the terms of the agreement. For an example, some companies charge for changing over if you are still under contract, so this is something that you have to look into. The nice thing about Illinois Electric Choice is that when you look at the list of providers, many of these questions are answered. You know how the electricity is being produced, what the hourly rates are, and if they are variable or fixed. They also provide how long these contracts are, as well as if there are any charges for switching providers before the contract expires.

Even those people who are on a budget can get into these programs, but you have to call the individual companies to find out. If you aren't satisfied with the company you choose, you can still go back to your old service provider, just wait until the contract is over so you won't get charged extra.