Factors to Consider When Choosing Electricity Provider
Almost everyone uses electricity. We use it for cooking and powering our phones, computers, medical devices, portable heaters, lawnmowers, and clocks. (Sometimes, we first notice our electricity has stopped when the clock on our stove is flashing.)
Modern life depends on electricity, and the cost of it is about to increase.
On January 1, the two major companies providing electricity in Connecticut will raise their rates. A lot. According to the Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), which represents ratepayers, residential customers will see an increase of nearly double what they currently pay.
The higher electric bills this winter will be due to the supply cost, which is based on international market conditions that the state suppliers do not control.
For a long time, those who lived in Connecticut did not have a choice about whom they bought their electricity from. Depending on where you lived, you had Connecticut Light and Power (now Eversource) or United Illuminating (UI).
Connecticut deregulated energy markets 16 years ago, allowing small electric suppliers to enter the market and compete with the two regulated utilities. Dozens of alternatives (third-party) electric suppliers have since joined the market, and they aggressively sell their services.
Between 80 - 90 percent of residential customers buy electricity through a standard offer with the two leading electric providers, while the remaining customers buy it through third-party suppliers.
Many of these companies go door-to-door and often promise customers that they will see a drastic reduction in their electric bills. It’s never a good idea to purchase any service or product from people who try to sell you something over the phone or door-to-door. When someone is friendly and seems to care about you, it is easier to say yes. Don’t fall prey to this – what they care about is selling their service, and the best thing to do is tell them you don’t buy anything without thinking about it and talking to friends and family. Ask them to send you something in the mail so that you can read the details of their plan and get back to them.
(If you sign on with a third-party provider, state law requires that they call you within three days to verify the service change. You can say no at that point.)
There is evidence that some of these third-party suppliers aggressively target non-English-speaking consumers and offer temporary deals – reducing your bill for a month or two but then increasing your rate to sometimes double or triple what you were initially paying. Therefore, observe and read your electric bills monthly if you purchase from a third-party supplier. You will see the promised decrease in the first monthly billing cycle or two (sometimes called a “teaser rate”) but read carefully to know that they are not increasing your rate in subsequent months.
The state of Connecticut and the two major providers are seeking a rate-relief plan to help customers deal with the financial hardship this increase will present.
The rate-relief plan is a “step in the right direction,” according to Mark Wolfe, National Energy Assistance Directors Association executive director.
“But with heating oil prices approaching record levels and natural gas up by about 28%, these additional payments should be closely monitored by the state of Connecticut to make sure they will be sufficient to address potential public health concerns as families struggle to pay high winter heating costs,” Wolfe said.
Stay informed of the increases and efforts to relieve low and middle-income families of the additional burden. And in the meantime, please consider the following ways to conserve electricity and save money!
Or consider alternative electric delivery, such as solar panels, which offer tax incentives.
You can also learn more by visiting www.EnergizeCT.com.
For information on providers, and how to file a complaint, visit https://portal.ct.gov/PURA/Electric/Choose-a--Supplier---Information-for-Customers
As always, compare prices and terms, ask questions, and take your time to decide. Pass It On to friends and family. Stay safe and warm this winter.
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education, and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us at www.ct.gov/dcp.