On the one hand, long-term, fixed-rate (contract) plans offer stability in pricing. If energy supply costs suddenly go up in your area, you won’t be left paying more than what you bargained for. You’ll have peace-of-mind. If you want to switch out of your contract before it ends with a lower cost plan, you’ll likely face a cancellation fee (early termination fee).
Canadian electricity is cheap at 10 US cents per kilowatt hour, which is reflected in their high average electricity usage. US electricity prices at 0.12 $/kWh are also quite cheap internationally. In India and China they are very cheap. The UK is in the middle at 20 cents. It’s relatively expensive globally but not too bad for Europe, where most countries pay a high share of tax on their power.
There are several reasons that some energy suppliers end up being cheaper than others. The largest energy companies, also known as the Big Six, often do not need to offer rates that are as competitive as smaller companies. This is because they are more recognisable names and therefore can always rely on a steady base of customers. You can avoid this and save money by switching to a cheaper provider.
In 2016, for example, they correctly called the recovery in oil prices but failed to foresee that clean energy investment would fall. Funds flowing into the sector were 18% lower than the previous year at $287.5bn, although they estimate that about half of the drop was due to lower costs rather than a decline in activity. A slowdown in the Chinese market was the other major factor.
Variable Rate Plans: Designed as month-to-month contracts, these plans are in total control of your energy provider, which can shift the price you pay per kWh at its discretion. This means you, the consumer, are in a better place to reap the benefits when the energy market falls — but it also means you're at risk for hikes in prices, whether as a result of natural disasters or the provider's bottom line. Variable plans always offer a full year of price history to show the average price per kWh so you can get a sense of what you're getting into (like this one from Reliant) and know this: Variable plans don't have cancellation fees. You can cut your service at any time — a huge incentive for REPs to keep their prices reasonable.
However, the energy storage sector will continue its strong showing from 2016, with commissioned capacity set to exceed 1GW for the first time, Liebreich and McCrone say. “We predict a doubling of new capacity from this year’s 700MW to 1.5GW, almost all of it lithium-ion batteries. We are going to see a further reduction in battery prices of at least 15% this year, after a 70% reduction in the past five years.”
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) does it for you. When you sign up for a plan with a new provider, ERCOT will send you a mailer confirming the switch. You have three days upon receiving the mailer to change your mind. If you don't, you'll have a new provider within seven days, and ERCOT will notify your old provider. Just remember, if you abandon a contract before it's complete, you will be on the hook for any fees or penalties detailed in its Terms of Service.
The local electric company is the utility – that’s the company who owns the infrastructure, including the poles and power lines that deliver electricity to your home. They are who you call if your power goes out or there's an emergency. But in almost every city in Texas, you must choose another company to supply that energy, called a Retail Electric Provider (REP). These REPs, like Spark Energy, allow you to choose electricity plans that offer competitive prices and plans to meet your needs.