We hear a lot from our customers about how bad their utility provider is to them. Some of the complaints range from high prices, bad customer service or just plain distrust. While we support our customers and ensure that they have the right information to make decisions and are treated fairly by their energy suppliers and the utility, we do know that some of these claims are unfair to the utility and energy suppliers. Yes we said it, sometimes the claims made against utilities and energy suppliers are unfair.
As we do with all things related to consumer education, we’d like to correct some of this information. We’ve picked four things that we hear from consumers that are not exactly as it seems when they think about their utility and energy suppliers.
- The Utility does not care about the consumers (aka the utility is evil): Utilities and energy suppliers would not exist if it were not for the fact that we the consumers buy energy (gas, electricity or water) from them. The relationship between the utility and the consumer is similar to the trade relationship between the United States and China: can’t live with them and can’t live without them. Both sides benefit. So it is in the interest of the utility to care for the consumer. And the utilities do care, by providing rebates and education programs to ensure consumers are well informed and treated fairly. Otherwise the state public utility commission in charge of regulating the industry would fine the utility.
- Suppliers and utilities just increase prices and rates all the time (aka the utility is out to take my money): Utilities and energy suppliers are businesses. Businesses are run to create value for its stakeholders. In the case where the business considers it’s consumers as stakeholders then the business treats its consumers well. But the business cannot be properly run if the costs of the input (fuel, generating plants and employees in the case of electricity) keep going up then the cost of the output (the electricity generated) will go up as well. In the last few months electricity prices have gone down because fuel prices (where liquefied natural gas is the fuel) have gone down. And customers have seen the benefit of these reduced fuel prices in the form of reduced electricity prices.
- The Smart meter only benefits the utility (aka why do you want my data?!!?): Smart meters record real time or near real time information on household electricity usage and report it to the utility. We explained what they do and don’t do here. Consumers worry that the utility is taking the information that is obtained from their meters and will use it to do ‘something’. That’s where the real problem lies; not much more can be gleaned from your information right now that could not be assumed before. What your smart meter data does allow the utility to do is know when to turn up or turn down generation and better manage the grid (that network of wires and transformers that bring electricity to your home). The improvement of the grid also enables the utility to quickly respond to outages or even predict outages where they have advanced systems. This is good for both the utility and the consumer.
- Utilities do not like green energy (aka why are they advertising ‘clean coal? There is nothing like clean coal!!): Electricity suppliers are very keen to generate electricity and supply to their consumers (I’m sure we all agree about that point). What is preventing the greater adoption of green energy practices is the expensive nature of developing the infrastructure and generating energy from these renewable resources. The high cost of renewable energy compared to coal and nuclear (which are in fact subsidized as a result of the grid being built around them over time) makes it prohibitive for generators. The good news is that companies and governments are willing to spend on research and development to increase generation from renewable resources. We just hope that the pace of this speeds up. A good sign is that consumers are currently purchasing more renewable energy. About 17% of Power2Switch consumers have purchased energy from a renewable source. Hurray for that!
Any other complaints you have about your utility or supplier? Let us know! As always you can drop your comments below or drop us an email at Hello@Power2Switch.com