How to choose a retail energy provider

Alex Crees
By Alex Crees

With the news that Lubbock, TX, is joining the deregulated energy market – and Nevada may soon follow – millions of people could have energy choice for the first time.  That means they’ll have the option to buy electricity from their utility or from a retail energy provider of their choosing.

It can be daunting choosing a retail energy provider but our Choose News guide to is here to help.  Here are some factors you should consider when picking the REP that’s right for you.

Price

Energy choice means utilities and REPs must compete to earn your business – through their services as well as their prices.  The competition can work for you: Consider the average price of residential electricity for all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2017 compared with the previous year. The average price decreased in only five states – Rhode Island, Maryland, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Jersey, all of which are deregulated.

While energy shopping, the prices listed will be expressed in cents per kilowatt hour.  The lowest prices typically pair with six-month plans.  Take note: if you don’t shop again when the term is up, your provider likely will enroll you again at its default rate, which could be higher than the one associated with its six-month contracts.

Term

Just as – or even more – important than price, term describes the length of your contract.  You can choose between a 6, 12, 24 or even 36-month plan with most REPs, whichever works best for your lifestyle.

If your living situation is temporary, or you have the time to shop around frequently, consider shorter-term plans — which, as previously mentioned, also tend to be less expensive.  If you want protection against increasing energy rates or simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of shopping around frequently, you should consider the 24- or 36-month plans.

Fixed vs Variable

REPs offer both variable-rate and fixed-rate contracts. Choosing between the two comes down to your appetite for risk.

Variable rates move up and down with the market, meaning at times they could be lower than a fixed-rate plan – but the next month they could be higher.  Fixed-rate plans lock in a stable rate for the length of the contract, protecting you from rate spikes.

Additional Services

As mentioned previously, REPs in deregulated markets must compete to earn your business – which means some offer benefits and services to set them apart from the pack.  Consider what’s important to you in an energy plan – chances are, there’s a provider who can satisfy your wish list.

REPs offer a variety of specialized plans and services including:

·       Customer awards and discounts

·       No credit check or deposit

·       Easy-to-use tools to help monitor and manage energy use

·       Paperless billing/online bill payment

·       Mobile app and text balance updates

·       Full or partial renewable energy options

·       Charitable contributions