The New Hampshire Union Leader discusses the importance of being an informed consumer when it comes to assessing the different energy options to power, cool, and heat your home and business.
New Hampshire Union Leader
Contact: Dave Soloman
Dave Solomon’s Power Plays: Read the fine print before switching power provider.
If you are an electricity customer in the Eversource territory and haven’t already been inundated with offers for competitive energy supply, get ready. They’re on the way.
The latest price signals from Eversource suggest that its energy supply rate as of July 1 will be well above what competitors can offer for the first time in the past two to three years, and the consumer who wants to do some comparison shopping stands to benefit.
The company recently predicted that it will request a rate of 10.94 cents per kilowatt hour as of July 1, while many competitors are offering rates in the 7- to 8-cent range.
Since the late 1990s, consumers in New Hampshire have had the right to buy energy from an independent supplier instead of their regulated utility, even though the utility continues to deliver the electricity and bill the customer.
For most of that time, for-profit competitors could not beat the regulated utility pricing, so there was little incentive for residential consumers to make a move or for competitors to make a pitch. Then in 2012, when natural gas prices declined, competition came into the market in a big way, with advertising, direct mail and door-to-door campaigns.
Customers began abandoning Eversource at such a rapid rate that the Public Utilities Commission became concerned about a death spiral that would compromise the stability of electrical service in the state. By the summer of 2013, about 75,000 of Eversource’s 430,000 residential customers were getting their energy supply from somewhere other than Eversource.
Then came the winter of the Polar Vortex in 2013-2014, and chaos ensued in the competitive marketplace. One provider went bankrupt and its customers found themselves sold off to another competitor or back with Eversource. Companies that had been marketing aggressively disappeared without notice.
Some customers failed to read the fine print in their contracts and didn’t notice that once their fixed-rate period expired, they were automatically assigned a monthly variable rate, which in the winter of the Polar Vortex went through the roof.
Migration in the Eversource territory, which serves seven out of 10 New Hampshire residents, froze at around 75,000 households, and hasn’t changed much since.
“We’ve had some attractive offers that we put out for eight-month or 12-month rates,” says Bart Fromuth of Resident Power, one of the companies whose supplier ran into trouble in 2013. “The interesting thing is that most of the customers that we’re attracting are customers already in the competitive marketplace. It appears that everything that happened back in 2013 is still having a residual effect in New Hampshire.” But consumers have short memories, and the opportunity to save a substantial amount on electric bills during air conditioning season is likely to cause those fears to fade. This email I received after reporting on the Eversource rate prediction was typical: “I read your May 10th article regarding Eversource’s expected service charge increase. The last paragraph of the article mentions being careful about switching to another provider. What do I need to be leery of? I have Eversource now and have never had any issues, but I am concerned about the rate increase.”
The website of the Public Utilities Commission, puc.state.nh.us, now has two valuable tools for consumers posted right at the top of the home page — a comparison shopping tool for competitive electric supply and “Questions About Choosing a Competitive Supplier.”View this News Release (external link)