Depending on which state you live in, you may have choices for a provider for electricity, natural gas, or both. Energy deregulation actually dates back to the 1970s, but began in ernest with the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. This act created a split between energy supply (the actual electricity or natural gas) and energy transmission/distribution (keeping the wires humming and the pipes flowing). In a deregulated market utilities, who used to be responsible for all aspects of energy, continue to handle transmission/distribution, and charge a standard rate that applies to everyone. Energy supply, however, can be provided by anyone, and you can choose any provider and plan that you want. Currently, 15 states are deregulated for electricity, and 21 states have some form of deregulation of natural gas. If you are being offered choices for your energy, you are in a deregulated state.
The idea behind deregulation is that competition encourages a market to become more efficient and innovative, which drives down price and increases choice. Supporters point to the deregulation of the telecom industry, and the explosion of new products and cheaper services that followed, as a template.
Deregulation has developed slowly. Free markets often work this way. It has taken alternative providers this much time to ramp up their programs to the point that they could offer cost savings relative to the firmly entrenched utility plans. Successful competition in the residential market, which is the smallest-use market, is fairly new.
Your local utility is required to inform you that you have a choice. Not surprisingly, most have met this requirement with as little fanfare as possible.
No. Electricity is just electrons moving in space, and is strictly regulated no matter who supplies it.
No. Utilities are required by law to deliver your energy to you as long as you pay your bill. They are also required by law to provide the same level of service to all customers…beyond which, transmission systems are so complex that it would be virtually impossible to "play favorites" with specific customers. And utilities are also required by law to charge the same rate for delivery no matter who owns the energy that is passing through their wires or pipes.
Some utilities are actually ENCOURAGING their customers to choose alternative providers. Their goal is to get out of the supply end and focus on the delivery. This remains the exception rather than the rule, however.
At this point, you have two levels of protection to ensure that this is the case. First, Eco-Vision's partners in creating the Community Green Challenge and experts in the energy market with decades of experience. They thoroughly check any provider they do business with, and continue to monitor their performance with customers. They only offer plans from providers who have proven themselves to be reliable. Second, the alternative supply industry is now a mature and established market. As in any good market, the companies that couldn't meet their customers' needs have fallen by the wayside. The companies that are still in the running have proven themselves for many years.
Energy bills start with the two basic components, supply cost and delivery cost. The law requires full and transparent disclosure of costs. Eco-Vision's partners work to narrow your choices down to the providers and plans that they believe offer you the best real savings. In general, supply counts for 65% - 70% of your bill. Multiply that by the savings percent we list and you'll have a good starting point to estimate your overall savings.
Your utility is still being paid for the delivery of your energy, and they are still responsible to keep the system in working order. That doesn't change no matter who your provider is.
This varies depending on the provider. In some cases, the utility will continue to bill you as before. In some cases, the provider will bill you. Sometimes, you will receive seperate bills. We choose providers based on multiple aspects including customer service, reputation, ease of billing, early termination fees, and price.
This is listed in the plan description for each plan. You should review the provider's site carefully when you go there to sign up for all the details of your plan choice.
You can probably guess the answer to this one. The utility is required by law to resume supplying you at the standard rate. You will never be deprived of energy as long as you pay your bills.
No. Energy systems are "blind" systems: once electricity or natural gas enters them, there is no way to tell where it came from, and it flows where it flows. The utility is required by law to keep it flowing at all time. The change that takes place is a billing change, not a service change. Your lights will never flicker and your heat will never dip.
No. As we said above, the utility is still in charge of delivery, and the gas and electricity in the system is "blind." Everything flows as before. The only change is in the billing.
That varies from plan to plan. We list the basic charges in the plan description. Check the provider's website for specific information that covers all contingencies. There will be a complete Terms of Service on their site which you can check…and you should…before you sign up.
Most residential plans are fixed rate, which means you pay one price all the time. "Time of use" plans, which offer a higher price during peak usage (business) hours and a lower rate during off-peak hours, are also starting to appear, as are variable plans, which track day-to-day cost of energy and fluctuate with it. Most residential customers prefer the "set it and forget it" ease of the fixed plans. Eco-Vision's partners offer the plans which they believe offer you the best savings opportunity for your market. When new plans which meet their criteria come on the market, they add them to the plans offered to the Challenges in that area.