Frequently Asked Questions, and Answers, About Energy Choice
What is energy choice?
For decades, consumers were required to purchase all of their electricity and natural gas from a single utility. Today, a growing number of states are creating the option for consumers to choose if they would like to purchase their electricity or natural gas from a competitive energy supplier or from their local utility. Competitive suppliers are typically licensed by your state’s public utility commission (sometimes called public service commission). See our status of restructuring by state page to find out if choice is available to you.
What is a competitive energy supplier?
A competitive energy supplier is a company that provides electricity or natural gas supply.
Do I have to choose a competitive energy supplier?
No – in most states with energy choice programs, you do not have to choose a supplier. You may choose to remain with your utility for your electricity and natural gas supply. In some states, like parts of Texas and Georgia, if you do not choose a supplier on your own, you will be assigned to a supplier.
Who will deliver my electricity or natural gas if I select a competitive supplier?
Regardless who you buy your energy supply from, your utility will continue to deliver electricity and natural gas to your home. Your utility will respond to service interruptions and continue to maintain the poles, wires, and pipes that distribute electricity and natural gas to your home or business. You will continue to receive the same service you are used to with your utility, regardless of where you purchase your energy supply.
Can I save money by choosing a competitive energy supplier?
You may be able to save money, but not always. Many consumers are interested in switching to a competitive supplier for other reasons, too. They may be interested in purchasing renewable energy, or in special pricing terms (like long-term contracts), different billing and payment options, or home energy equipment services. If energy savings are offered to you, make sure you understand the specific terms and conditions under which you will save money.
Why should I shop for a competitive energy supplier?
The choice is all yours. Just as you shop for any household item or service, you may shop for your electricity and natural gas to find the best deal and service to meet your needs.
Where can I find a list of competitive energy suppliers?
Some states have developed websites with lists of licensed competitive suppliers, which let you browse for active offers in your area. See our state website links page for links to states lists of approved energy suppliers in your state.
If I choose a new competitive energy supplier, what part of my service will change?
When you shop for a competitive energy supplier, you are choosing the company that supplies your electricity or natural gas. Your local utility will continue to deliver the energy to your home over its pipes and wires. The competitive supplier may own electricity generating plants or natural gas wells themselves, or may purchase the energy from other companies. Either way, they will arrange to have the energy brought to your local utility, who then delivers the energy to your address. The utility will continue to play that important role.
Can everyone shop for a competitive energy supplier?
Not yet. Energy choice doesn’t exist in every state; see our status of restructuring by state page to find out if choice is available to you.
How do I know that a competitive energy supplier is reliable?
Competitive energy suppliers must be licensed by the public utility commission or public service commission of the state in which they operate. If you choose a new competitive energy supplier, your utility will continue to deliver your electricity and natural gas as always.
You can always contact your state public utility commission or public service commission state PSC links or your state’s consumer advocate office state OCA links.
What will happen if my competitive supplier goes out of business?
If for some reason your competitive supplier goes out of business, your energy will be provided by the regulated utility or default service provider approved by the state. You could then choose to remain with your utility or provider-of-last-resort, or select another competitive energy supplier. There will be no loss of electricity or natural gas service.
Where can I find information on competitive energy supplier prices?
To find out pricing – and what is included in a supplier’s price – contact the supplier directly, or see if you can access information about available offers on some states’ shopping websites link.
How long will a switch to a new competitive energy supplier take?
Your switch date depends on a number of factors, including the date of your next meter reading. This may take anywhere from two to six weeks, depending on your utility. It may take one to two billing cycles to receive your first bill from your new competitive energy supplier.
Will I receive two bills if I choose a new competitive energy supplier?
Depending on the supplier you choose, you may be able to receive a single monthly bill from your utility that details the competitive energy supplier’s charges separately. Some suppliers may also bill you separately. In this case, you would receive two bills, one from your utility for energy delivery, and one from the supplier for the energy supply. Before entering into any agreement, be sure to ask the competitive energy supplier for the available billing options.
Are there any charges or fees for choosing a competitive energy supplier or canceling a contract?
When choosing an energy supplier, you will be required to enter into a contract (in writing, over the phone, or online). Make sure you understand the terms, conditions, length of contract and any fees that may apply at any time during the contract, including fees for enrolling or for choosing to terminate your contract.
Will I still be able to take advantage of "budget billing?"
Budget billing allows you to pay a fixed amount each month. Budget billing averages bills out over 12 months, so each monthly bill will be the same amount until the total bill is paid. The company may adjust the bill throughout the year, up or down, depending on your electricity or natural gas usage.
You may still be able to take advantage of budget billing from your utility for the delivery of your energy. Many competitive energy suppliers offer budget billing, but they aren’t required to do so. Contact your supplier to inquire about its ability to offer budget billing. If you are already on budget billing with your utility, your utility account may be reviewed and reconciled (trued-up) prior to starting service with your new supplier.
My utility has always been reliable. Why should I switch now?
Switching suppliers may or may not be right for you. But, just like in many other areas of your life, you should be able to choose where you purchase your electricity and natural gas. You may be able to save money or find a product which better suits your needs by switching to a competitive supplier. If you switch, your utility will continue to deliver your electricity or natural gas, and respond to outage problems. Either way, the quality, reliability, and maintenance of your electricity and natural service will not change and will continue to be monitored and regulated by your state public utility commission or public service commission.
I just learned about a new competitive energy supplier that seems to offer a better deal than the one I have now. How do I take advantage of it?
That depends. When you choose a supplier, you commit to a contract (either in writing, by phone or online). Before canceling your existing competitive energy supplier contract, review your agreement to see if there are any penalties for early termination. If you are not sure, call your current supplier to find out when your contract ends, and whether any early termination fees apply if you cancel before the contract expires. Also, be sure to ask your new competitive energy supplier if they have any fees or penalties for canceling or switching service before signing a contract.
I have been solicited by a competitive energy supplier. Can they do that?
You may be contacted by competitive energy suppliers through a variety of ways, such as by telephone, mailers, e-mail or door-to-door solicitations. It is up to you whether to continue the conversation. Do not provide your utility account number until you have decided to shop for supply service with a given competitive energy supplier and have entered into a contract. If you receive a telephone call from a competitive energy supplier and your name is on the Do-Not-Call Registry, you may wish to inform the supplier of this fact and ask whether you may have been contacted by mistake. It is within your rights to report any solicitor you feel is in violation of the Do-Not-Call Registry to the Federal Communications Commission and your state Office of Attorney General.
If I buy my energy supply from one of these new competitors, who do I call about outages and repairs?
You will still call your local utility about electricity and natural gas outages and repairs.
Who do I contact if I have billing questions?
If you have a question about the electricity or natural gas supply charges and you have a contract with a competitive energy supplier, contact that supplier. If you have questions about the delivery portion of your bill, contact your local utility.
If I have a problem with a competitive energy supplier or my utility, where can I go for help?
If you can’t resolve your concerns with the competitive energy supplier or utility directly, you may consider bringing the issue to the complaints division or consumer affairs office of your state public utility commission or public service commission. Please see links to state commission websites for more information link.
If I have an unpaid balance on my electric or natural gas account, can I still switch suppliers?
That depends. In most instances you will need to call your utility and make an arrangement to pay any outstanding balances in your account before you can switch suppliers.