Since Thomas Edison first developed commercially-viable electrical power in the early 1880s, utilities provided energy to consumers under the regulation of the federal government and public utility commissions. In 1978, however, the U.S. Congress passed the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, which allowed non-utility companies to generate and sell electricity on the wholesale power market to utilities, and the Natural Gas Policy Act, which began to lift controls on the price of natural gas drilled from wells. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the federal government took further steps to restructure wholesale markets and reform access to electricity transmission lines and interstate natural gas pipelines.
In order to bring choice directly to you, the consumer, states had to the take next step. Beginning in the mid-1990s, many states began to allow non-utility companies (today’s competitive energy suppliers) to offer energy directly to consumers, while continuing to use the utilities’ pipes and wires to deliver that energy.
State and federal policymakers had two major goals in restructuring energy markets after decades of regulated rates: first, to give consumers control over their own energy decisions; and second, to encourage competition and innovation in the energy sector.
Today, many states continue to reform and strengthen competitive energy markets in order to put the power of energy choice in your hands. Contact your current energy provider for details on competition in your state.