To much of the US population, having the option to switch your energy provider may seem like a bit of an alien concept; however, in varying degrees, choice of energy provider has already arrived in 32 states. The regulated market has created local monopolies in each state around the US, which means all state infrastructures for transmission, distribution and supply is owned by the same company, meaning you are forced into complying with their terms if you want your home connected to mainline electricity and natural gas. This is swiftly changing in a large number of countries across the world. De-stabling the local monopolies and allowing competition into the energy markets has facilitated millions of dollars of savings in bills merely by switching providers to a more reasonable price per kWh. Switching your provider is easy, but it is not available to everyone in the US yet, so which states can?
Which states have the option to switch?
As of yet there is no state in the US that has complete choice of natural gas or electricity, but many have a large percentage of the population that are eligible to switch. Texas is the closest to complete, in which 85% of customers have the choice to switch electricity providers. In varying degrees of coverage, energy choice in the US currently comes in three categories: electricity only; gas only; or gas and electricity. At present there are 18 states that have choice of both natural gas and electricity, 7 with choice of just natural gas and 7 with choice of just electricity, which leaves 17 states with no choice but to stick with their incumbent supplier. Let’s hope that deregulation keeps the momentum going!
All states are listed below:
|Electricity and natural gas||Natural gas only||Electricity only||No choice|
District of Columbia (DC)
How can I switch?
Due to the limited number of suppliers in each state, it is generally possible to make a quote by yourself by visiting each of the supplier websites, jotting down each price estimate relative to your usage; however, there is now a much easier option. Adapted from European models such as Selectra , there now exists price comparison engines that will compare each tariff available to you in your area and give you the estimates in an easy to understand display. You can also use these services to actually carry out the switch: by entering your zip code, personal details and current supplier information, your chosen comparison service will contact your supplier to facilitate the switch and leave you in peace. The two most popular services of this kind in the United States are currently Power2Switch and Choose Energy, each of which are highly recommended.
Because the incumbent, regulated energy supplier in your state still owns the transmission and distribution networks that actually deliver the natural gas and electricity to your home, you will still pay the distribution and maintenance fees that you always have done. The thing that you are switching is the price per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity and therm for natural gas, which multiply based on your actual usage. The lower the price per unit, the lower your bills will be each month. By switching from your default, variable tariff to a fixed unit rate tariff in the deregulated market, you are able to save hundreds of dollars a year. A real no brainer!