When you think about energy companies offering services in your city, it might get stuck in your head that these companies only service that city and no one else. In this increasingly complex world of mergers, new businesses and increased opportunities, that is no longer the case. Chances are the electricity you use in Buffalo may come from a supplier in Pittsburgh. Your natural gas in Cleveland may come courtesy of a company based out of Nashville. The concept of “energy retailers” is nothing new. Companies stand ready to ply their utility trade at any time, and they may be located far away from your address.
It used to be, for the first 100 years or so of electricity, that a fixed company in your area would supply the power. If you lived in Kansas City, for example, chances are a company based in that area would take care of you. Around 1990, the way energy providers did business began to change.
Of the 50 states, 29 offer some form of gas deregulation, electric deregulation, or both. This allows companies to come in and sell their product much like you might buy a car. In short, you better shop around. Texas alone offers a plethora of choices for electricity and energy. Retail electric providers include Ambit Energy, which offers electricity for Texas and Maryland customers, electricity and gas for New York and natural gas for Illinois. What is the Ambit Energy Powerzone in Texas? It is something used by Ambit to get new customers to join their service. Never let it be said energy companies do not know how to recruit customers.
Speaking of Maryland, you may have gone through Baltimore Gas and Electric prior to the turn of the century, but Baltimore transferred its customer base to Constellation Energy to take advantage of having suppliers and utility bid for power on the wholesale energy market. Two years ago, Constellation became a part of Exelon Utilities, which has operations in 47 states and deals in varieties of power including nuclear, hydro, fossil fuel, solar, wind and plain old electricity.
See how complicated things have gotten over the years? There’s more where it comes to Maryland. The Maryland Public Service Commission maintains a website with a list of service providers that offer gas and electric power, all the better to give you choices to pick from when you go shopping for energy choices.
Speaking of Illinois, not only can you find Ambit for gas, but there is a company called IGS Energy that serves over a million customers in 11 states. IGS Energy also services other utility companies for power such as Michcon and Consumers Energy in Michigan. Michigan is one of the 11 states where IGS does business, so it only makes sense that customers have a chance to procure the company’s services.
What it is all about in the end? In short, it is all about choice. Much like airline deregulation opened the way for lower prices (and less frills, but that is another story), energy deregulation has opened the way for competition among companies and energy providers. Phone deregulation works the same way. Ever thought you would see free long distance before the AT&T breakup in 1984?
The idea is to have you paying less money for your utilities in the long run. That puts more money in your pocket. It also makes utility companies happy. They have to work for customers, but the hard work may pay off with a higher customer base. The future of electricity and energy may be bright, albeit a little confusing. But you, the consumer, save money in the end.