Party of one You have power to save on electricity
We’re used to our holiday generosity to loved ones in December leading to cold, painful payback to our creditors come January.
Well, prepare to hurt a little more, lower Fairfield County — electric generation rates jump 19 percent as of Jan. 1.
Eversource, the major supplier for our area, raises its standard service generation rate from 8.53 cents per kilowatt hour to 10.14 cents in the New Year. That may not bother the “average residential customer” whose 700 kilowatts of juice used a month means spending an extra $12, but this is the Gold Coast — we’re all above average here. So consider this motivation to ditch the Christmas lights well before Groundhog’s Day for once.
If you want to save even more, there are steps to take. But first, some history.
Connecticut passed legislation to deregulate electricity in 1998, when our state had the third highest rates in the nation. Why? To create competition that would lower costs. As a result, residents and businesses today have the ability to choose from dozens of third-party electric suppliers and plans. However, only about a quarter of all residential customers shop for better prices, according to a 2018 survey by Choose Energy Inc. Even worse, a good portion of those who switched providers actually paid more for power, having been burned by fees and massive price spikes after the initial low introductory rate expired, concluded a 2015 state consumer counsel study.
Bottom line, we’re still paying one of the highest prices for electricity in the nation. But at least you can’t completely blame Connecticut for this one. Electrical deregulation has been a bust for most consumers in the 16 states that have adopted it. But since deregulation required the utilities companies to sell most of their power plants and instead buy electricity on the wholesale market, it looks like it’s here to stay.
So what can you do so you don’t get stuck paying more than you should for electricity in 2019 ... aside from completely unplugging?
1. Do some research to find the best deal: Energize Connecticut (https://www.energizect.com/) is a collaboration between the state, its energy utilities and others that offer savings tips and programs. Most importantly, it provides electricity rate comparisons between all available suppliers and plans. The key to comparing plans is not only finding the best supply rate but also avoiding any fees — enrollment, cancellation or monthly — that will offset those savings.
Also, pay attention to the duration of those rates. Once they expire, suppliers tend to jack the price up well above the going Eversource rate. In recent years, the state has required suppliers to notify you one cycle before a major rate increase, but you still don’t want to get caught. I usually mark my calendar to look for a new provider two months before a rate expires.
2. Sign up: If one of those third-party suppliers is offering a deal to your liking, sign up now. It usually takes one billing cycle for the switch to occur so if you hesitate too long, you may lose a month of savings. Most companies allow you to enroll online, a fairly easy and straightforward process, and confirm with you that you want to switch providers.
3. Go back and do it all again regularly: Third-party suppliers change rate offers regularly. I’ve signed up for one rate on a Monday and found a better rate the next day (and successfully switched to it, too.) That’s why avoiding cancellation fees when pick a new provider is so important. Since my house is an energy eater, I check each time the electric bill comes in and make a special notation on my calendar to look for a new provider a month or two before the rate expires.
Stamford native and resident Kevin McKeever is a nationally award-winning columnist and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.