Powers out…what now?

Who you gonna call?

ghostbustersWhen I was a kid one of my absolute favorite movies was Ghostbusters and the theme song was the absolute best! But even that great song is not going to cheer you up when your power goes out and you’re wondering…”who you gonna call?” And…you may be wondering who the heck to call since there are now so many electricity companies out there. 

When your power goes out, it is important to report it to the utility company that produces and delivers your electricity…not the retail electricity supplier (who you buy your electricity from). It is important because the more information the utility has about where power is out – the better they can respond with repairs to restore the electricity. Also, many utility companies offer some excellent communications services like text message alerts and time estimates for how long until your power is restored. So, here is a little reference guide for who to call when your power goes out… 

 

Illinois Customers 

 

Greater Chicagoland Area: Comed 

 

Western, Central and Southern Illinois: Ameren 

 

Texas Customers 

 

Austin: Austin Energy 

 

Dallas/Ft. Worth and Surrounding Areas: Oncor Electric Delivery 

 

Lewisville and North Texas: Texas-New Mexico Power Company 

 

Houston and Surrounding Areas: CenterPoint Energy or Texas-New Mexico Power Company 

 

South Texas: AEP Texas Central Company 

 

 

SharylandSharyland Utilities

FAQ: What is Municipal Aggregation and How Could I Save Money With (or Without) It

By: Rob Dolin, Co-Founder and CTO, Energy Simply LLC

BACKGROUND

About thirty years ago, everyone had just one electricity provider.  It was either a publicly owned utility like Seattle City Light or a Privately-owned but very regulated utility that was allowed to earn a guaranteed rate of return in exchange for providing power to all the customers in a given service area regardless of how much it cost to serve them.

With privatization , some electricity providers went from public ownership to private ownership and/or private electricity providers were formed.  Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is an example of a private electricity provider.

With deregulation, multiple electricity providers were allowed to service customers.  Often, these other companies provide electricity over the same wires owned by the “incumbent” electricity provider.  For example, in Chicago, IL, the incumbent, ComEd, makes its wires available to many companies (27 in Dec. 2014) and literally DOZENS of retail electricity offers are available to customers (70 in Dec. 2014.)  For example, the Ambit Energy company has three offers for northeastern Illinois residents.  You can see a list of all seventy offers for northeastern Illinois residents at: http://www.pluginillinois.org/offers.aspx?said=1.

MUNICIPAL AGGREGATION

When you’re negotiating, if you buy more, you often get a lower price.  This holds for electricity.  Cities, counties, and groups of cities and counties, get together to negotiate on behalf of their residents.  When a municipality negotiates an electricity deal on behalf of its citizens, this is called municipal aggregation.

PROS AND CONS OF MUNICIPAL AGGREGATION

Municipal Aggregation is usually a better deal than the incumbent electricity provider and than many of the dozens of other offers; but there may be some exceptions:

  • LOCKED-IN PRICE: A municipal aggregation deal with a fixed price may be a good deal at the beginning, but if the cost of electricity goes down, it may not be as good.
  • FIXED MINIMUM COST: some municipal aggregation deals have a fixed minimum cost so apartments or homes that are frugal with their electricity use may not be getting a better deal.
  • NOT RENEWABLE / GREEN: A municipal aggregation agreement may get a relatively low price, but it might not be choosing energy sources that align with your values.  In some municipalities if you want renewable energy, you need to opt-out of the municipal aggregation agreement.

ENERGY SIMPLY AND MUNICIPAL AGGREGATION

Energy Simply isn’t just another website for browsing the myriad of electricity providers (though we do enable our customers to compare power plans for Illinois and Texas.)  Energy Simply analyzes YOUR electricity usage and preferences (cheapest or cheapest renewable) to build a personalized electricity profile and then monitors the ever-changing market to help you find the best plan for you (and switch to it if you choose our Gold plan.)

Our system takes into account your location and any municipal aggregation offers available to you; and helps you find the best electricity provider.  You can sign-up today for a FREE 30-day trial at: http://www.EnergySimp.ly/

Thanks–
–Rob

P.S. If you have more questions about Municipal Aggregation, the Plug-in Illinois website from the Illinois Commerce Commission has more info at: http://www.pluginillinois.org/MunicipalAggregation.aspx

Rob Dolin is the Co-Founder and CTO of Energy Simply. He has over a dozen years experience in the technology industry including work in the Office, MSN, and Windows divisions of Microsoft Corp. and technical partnerships with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Sina Weibo. Rob holds a B.S. in Engineering with Honors from the University of Illinois and a Graduate Certificate in User-Centered Design from the University of Washington..

FAQ: The Difference Between Fixed And Variable Power Rates

By: Jordan Hobfoll, Co-Founder and CEO, Energy Simply LLC

When shopping for plans you will likely come across two different types. The first is a fixed or fixed-term plan. The other is a Variable or month-to-month plan. So what is the difference between the two?

FIXED TERM

Fixed term plans allow you to lock in a fixed price for your power over the plans term which might range from 3 to 24 months. This kind of plan gives you security over the term that your price per kWh will not change though your monthly bill will fluctuate based on your actual usage.

The main thing you have to worry about with these plans, besides choosing the lowest price, is making sure you don’t get caught sleeping at the end of the plan term. If you do you may end up in an expensive month-to-month plan.

VARIABLE or MONTH-TO-MONTH

Variable plans on the other hand only give you the price per kWh that was advertised to you for one month guaranteed. Thereafter, the price will fluctuate based on the “market.” So in month two the price could be theoretically lower or higher. With this plan you lack certainty. If there is a natural gas shortage due to a severe winter you could be hit with a much higher rate. Some people have seen their rates increase by as much as 4x. The truth is most companies have a very opaque process for setting the variable rates and just like in used car sales they have an information advantage on you that they can leverage to overcharge you. I’m sure that some companies have honest methodologies for determining variable rates but the truth is that it is extremely hard to tell if that’s the case.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Due to the information disparity between you and the power companies, opacity of the variable rate market, and the certainty that comes from fixed rates we strongly recommend that you always choose a fixed rate for your power. You will never be surprised and you will be able to do fair comparisons between companies.

Remember to watch out for the expiration of your fixed plans, however. If you aren’t paying attention, you will get thrown onto a variable, month-to-month plan when you plan expires. SO make sure you are at the ready to sign yourself up for a new fixed rate plan when your is about to expire.

For those of you who don’t want the hassle of tracking your plans and want to avoid getting stuck on month-to-month plans because your life is too busy to remember to switch, Energy Simply’s Gold Plan is perfect for you. We will sign you up for the best plan, track your expiration and switch you automatically. Click Here to Learn More.

Jordan Hobfoll is the Co-Founder and CEO of Energy Simply. He previously worked at McKinsey & Company, where he was a consultant for some of the largest electric utilities in the United States. Jordan also holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in Finance with High Honors from the University of Illinois.

Why Does It Take So Long For My New Plan To Start? (Illinois Residents)

By: Jordan Hobfoll, Co-Founder and CEO, Energy Simply LLC

Unlike in states like Texas, when you switch power plans in Illinois you don’t start your new plan right away (in Texas, you can either wait up to 7 business days or pay extra fees for a switch sometimes as fast as same day). So what gives?

You thought you signed up for your new plan, so where are your savings?

The answer lies in the rules for how ComEd and Ameren switch your provider. There are two restrictions that create this gap.

  1. There is an 18 day waiting period from when ComEd or Ameren receive the request from your new provider until when they generate the order to switch your service.
  2. A generated order to switch service isn’t completed until your next meter read date

So for example, if your next meter read date is in 15 days, and you sign up for service with a cheaper provider today (assuming the new provider immediately submits your request), then ComEd won’t generate the order to switch you until 3 days after that meter read date. And you won’t actually get switched until the following meter read date 27 days later, for a total of 45 days from when you signed up until you are switched. Additionally, you won’t see your new supplier on your bill until 30 days more after that, when you get the bill from that billing period.

So it could take 75+ days before you physically see a cheaper bill. No wonder it sometimes feels like it take forever. It sort of does…

So what if you sign up for a 6-month fixed term contract that is set to expire 11/15. How do you know when to sign up for another plan so you don’t get charged month-to-month variable rates by the supplier?

Well in this case, your expiration should also be your meter read date. So you want to choose a new provider at least 18 days before that date, or before 10/28. But at Energy Simply we recommend that you be even more conservative and choose your provider 2 weeks even before then, or 10/14 in this case. That way you minimize the possibility that a delay in a provider’s submission to ComEd or Ameren, or a slip up from ComEd or Ameren causes you to miss the deadline.

If it sounds complicated and a lot to keep track of, that’s because it is. However, you can simplify this process very easily. How? Let Energy Simply manage it for you! We keep track of all the dates for you and use our proprietary analysis to make sure you are always in the best plan.

Jordan Hobfoll is the Co-Founder and CEO of Energy Simply. He previously worked at McKinsey & Company, where he was a consultant for some of the largest electric utilities in the United States. Jordan also holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in Finance with High Honors from the University of Illinois.

How Much More $$ Does 100% Renewable Energy Cost

By: Rob Dolin, Co-Founder and CTO, Energy Simply LLC

I don’t know anyone who would not choose 100% renewable energy IF it was the same cost as non-renewable energy.

In fact, in the City of Seattle, over 10,000 residents pay between $3/month and $12/month EXTRA to increase the portion of renewable energy in the electricity they purchase from the local utility.  But maybe you’re not in the temperate climate of Seattle and you experience the sweltering summers of Houston, TX or the harsh winters of Chicago, IL; and you don’t want to be faced with a sky high power bill because there was extreme weather and you wanted to do something good for the earth.

Based on our monitoring of the Illinois and Texas power markets, I’m pleased to report that with the help of Energy Simply to keep you in the cheapest (or cheapest 100% renewable) plan, at today’s rates, lighter electricity users can get 100% renewable energy for ZERO premium and heavier energy users pay only 10% – 15% more.

  • Residents of the Chicago, IL area would not spend more for 100% renewable power
  • Residents of the Dallas, TX area would spend only about 12% – 13% more for renewable power
  • Residents of the Houston, TX area would spend 10% – 15% more for 100% renewable power

CHICAGO – In Chicago, the cheapest price on power is currently a 100% renewable plan.

Usage Cheapest Cheapest 100% Renewable Renewable Premium
500 kWh $11 or  $0.02 (w/$75 rebate) $11 or  $0.02 (w/$75 rebate) 0%
1,000 kWh $46.9 or $0.0469 (w/ $75 rebate) $46.9 or $0.0469 (w/ $75 rebate) 0%
2,000 kWh $118.8 or $0.0594 (w/ $75 rebate) $118.8 or $0.0594 (w/ $75 rebate) 0%

DALLAS – Using the Texas Energy Commission’s Power to Choose website for a quick comparison, we find:

Usage Cheapest Cheapest 100% Renewable Renewable Premium
500 kWh $35 or $0.07 / kWh $35 or $0.07 / kWh $0 / 0%
1,000 kWh $56 or $0.056 / kWh $63 or $0.063 / kWh $7 / 12.5%
2,000 kWh $108 or $0.054 / kWh $122 or $0.061 / kWh $14 / 13.0%

HOUSTON – Using the Texas Energy Commission’s Power to Choose website for a quick comparison, we find:

Usage Cheapest Cheapest 100% Renewable Renewable Premium
500 kWh $40.50 or $0.081 / kWh $40.50 or $0.081 / kWh $0 / 0%
1,000 kWh $66 or $0.066 / kWh $73 or $0.073 / kWh $7 / 10.6%
2,000 kWh $122 or $0.061 / kWh $140 or $0.07 / kWh $18 / 14.8%

If you want to be in the cheapest 100% renewable (or just cheapest) energy plan, we can help.  Visit www.EnergySimp.ly

Thanks–
–Rob

Rob Dolin is the Co-Founder and CTO of Energy Simply. He has over a dozen years experience in the technology industry including work in the Office, MSN, and Windows divisions of Microsoft Corp. and technical partnerships with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Sina Weibo. Rob holds a B.S. in Engineering with Honors from the University of Illinois and a Graduate Certificate in User-Centered Design from the University of Washington.

You Won’t Notice Any Change To Your Power Bill If You Switch Energy Providers…Except The Lower Price. (Illinois Residents)*

By: Jordan Hobfoll, Co-Founder and CEO, Energy Simply LLC

One of the first questions people in Illinois ask us is, “If I let you switch my power provider, will I get an additional bill or will I have to change my auto pay.” In Illinois, the answer is: No and No.*

Your power bill will still be sent to you by ComEd or Ameren. You will still be able to go online and access your account. Your auto-pay will not change at all.

Only two things will change; your new power provider supplier will now be listed by the supply section of the bill. And IF you choose wisely (or use Energy Simply) the amount you pay for supply will also go down. How much can it go down? For some people as much as 50% or more, but for most people the supply charge reduction will be in the 10-25% range.

ComEd or Ameren will still deliver your power and your bill.  If there are any issues with your power such as outages or surges, you still call them not your new power provider.  You only need to contact your new supplier if you have a problem what they have charged you.

As an added benefit of this structure, there are no new credit checks and therefore no sensitive personal data is required to switch power suppliers in Illinois.

It’s easy so what are you waiting for.

  1. Let Energy Simply make sure that you are always in the best provider-offered plan, based on their research and knowledge of all the retail electric providers and plans.
  2. Figure out what you are paying now on your power bill, Then go to Plug In Illinois and choose a plan that saves you money. Make sure you choose a Fixed rate plan. And make note of when the plan will expire so you can switch to a new plan at that time

Happy Savings–
–Jordan

Jordan Hobfoll is the Co-Founder and CEO of Energy Simply. He previously worked at McKinsey & Company, where he was a consultant for some of the largest electric utilities in the United States. Jordan also holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in Finance with High Honors from the University of Illinois.

*There are two minor exceptions, AEP Energy and Champion Energy Services send out their own bills.  So far Energy Simply has not recommended these to any customers as having the cheapest or cheapest 100% renewable power plans