New York Electric Switching
History of Electric Competition
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has opened the State's electric industry to competition. Changes in the electric market have allowed customers to choose their supplier of electricity. The PSC approved utility plans that give electric customers access to new energy suppliers known as energy service companies, or "ESCOs." The plans require the utilities to offer retail choice to customers who want to shop for electricity and related services. The delivery of electricity to homes and businesses, however, will remain the job of the local utility and continue to be regulated by the PSC. In a competitive market, electricity prices should be lower than they would be under government regulation. Competition should also produce innovation and new technologies that promote new services. You as a consumer, and the state as a whole, will benefit. Savings You could save money by shopping for lower cost power from an ESCO. It is important to compare the prices offered by any supplier who sells electricity and to know what you are signing up for.
What Stays the Same? What Changes?
Your current utility will still deliver electricity to your home or business through its existing transmission and distribution system. You will still call your utility if your power goes out, or if you have an emergency situation related to your power. If you decide to continue purchasing your power from the utility for now, your relationship with that company will change very little. If you choose an ESCO to supply your electricity, you can expect some changes. For example, your ESCO might provide other energy products, such as natural gas or fuel oil. It might bill you separately for any products it sells you, including electricity. Whatever changes you experience, however, you will continue to receive electricity delivery and storm restoration services from your utility.
The PSC requires that ESCOs offer reasonable customer protections, such as: a statement disclosing the ESCO's complaint resolution process a 15-day notice before discontinuing service customer choice of service from another ESCO or the utility when an ESCO discontinues service clear procedures for switching suppliers convenient complaint handling ESCOs serving residential customers must comply with the Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA) and PSC orders regarding payment allocation methods. You may contact the PSC to register a complaint about an ESCO. Upon receipt, the PSC will forward the complaint to the ESCO for resolution. The PSC has the authority to revoke an ESCO's eligibility to do business if an excessive number of legitimate complaints against the ESCO are received.
Whether you choose to buy power from your utility or an ESCO, your bill for electricity will separate (unbundle) charges. If you choose an ESCO, you may receive two bills: one bill from the ESCO for electricity supply and other products it sells to you, and one from the utility for transmission and delivery charges. Other options are possible -- the utility may bill you on behalf of the ESCO and include the ESCO's charges in its bill, or the ESCO may bill you on behalf of the utility and include the utility's charges in the ESCO's bill. Regardless, you will always have access to your usage and billing history, and that information can only be released by the utility with your permission.
Safety and Reliability
The safety and reliability of the delivery system is still the responsibility of the utility. It will maintain the lines and repair them if there is an outage or storm. The PSC will also ensure that a safe and reliable delivery system exists, through continued regulation of this portion of the industry. In addition, the utility company is known as the provider of last resort. For example, should your ESCO go out of business, the utility will make sure you continue to receive power. Or, if you decide to switch back to the utility, or switch ESCOs, there will be no interruption in service when you change.
Choosing an ESCO
If you want to shop for a different electric supplier, you should first find out from your utility if this option is available in your area. Then obtain a list of ESCOs eligible to provide service in New York State from your utility or the PSC. (See "Want to Know More?") Before you sign a contract with an ESCO, you should do the following: