Solar Gold Rush in Illinois (and beyond)

I grew up in Illinois and still have many family members there, so I tend to pay attention to the news out of the Prairie State. Unless you live in Illinois (and pay attention to energy news) you may have missed that Illinois is on the precipice of a solar gold rush resulting from legislation adopted by the general assembly in December of 2016. But you couldn’t be blamed since most of the news coverage made little to no mention of the huge solar program included in the legislation.

The legislation was covered through the lens of nuclear power. “Huh?” you’re scratching your head…”I thought we were talking about solar.” Allow me to explain.

Illinois generates more electric from nuclear power plants than any other state with 11 operating nuclear reactors. The plants where those reactors are housed are not especially young, either. So the companies that operate them asked the legislature for approval to raise electric rates to pay for improvements to the plants. However, one of the ways that the company got the legislation passed was by agreeing to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from ratepayers to help subsidize the construction of a lot of new solar energy in Illinois. This helped get environmental lobbying groups on board.SOLAR-FARM-1024x768

“Wait…” you’re thinking as you look outside on this cold, grey, winter day in Illinois, “solar in Illinois?” I was curious about this too, but it turns out that the technology used in solar panels has advanced (and keeps advancing) at a rate that makes it work even in northern climates. States like New York and Minnesota have had aggressive programs in place for some time now. In sunny states like Hawaii and California, they’re setting goals of producing 100% of their electric from renewable.

These developments paint a rosy picture of a future where we will rely on less carbon producing technologies, but it does cost. Illinois has enjoyed relatively cheap electric, but rates are on the rise. I, for one, am happy that some of those increases are helping shepherd in new, clean electric production and not simply being used to maintain the old and less efficient technologies.

Comed Customer? Your rates are about to go up.

increase chartCommonwealth Edison (or Comed for short) is the electric utility that covers most of the Chicagoland Region. According to their website, they supply more than 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois. While it is no secret when their rates are scheduled to increase, many of their customers will be surprised to know that rates are guaranteed to keep climbing incrementally over the next two years.

The current Comed rate is 6.318 cents per kWh. That means if you’re an average user (average sized house, family, appliances etc) your cost might be about $63 bucks per month, not including delivery charges and other fees outside of the cost of electric. Over the next couple years Comed is stepping up prices:

  • June 2017 = 6.89 cents per kWh
  • October 2017 = 7.15 cents per kWh
  • June 2018 = 7.54 cents per kWh

If you’re doing the math then you’ll see that an average user might see a $12/month increase or $144/year. And if you’re an above average user of electricity (heated swimming pool, larger home etc.) your pocketbook will get hit even harder.

Because these prices are tied to the base price of electricity, alternative suppliers will also see increases, but if you’re currently a Comed customer it is a good time to begin shopping the alternative suppliers and actively monitor your costs.

Sure you’ve got the best electric price?

States like Texas and Illinois that have deregulated their electric markets are counting on informed consumers to find their own best prices. However, there are a couple of reasons why this doesn’t work.

Money HouseA little more than a year ago, I was knocking on doors in a Houston neighborhood to survey homeowners about their electric purchasing experiences. One gentleman in particular stands out. He was retired, friendly and very willing to boast about the “best” price his contact had “hooked him up” with. Perhaps too quickly, I asked if he’d share his per kilowatt hour price with me. Hesitantly he let me know that he was paying .14 cents per kilowatt hour. THAT IS ALMOST DOUBLE WHAT HE SHOULD BE PAYING!

Unfortunately where the system breaks down is that consumers are busy and finding the right price is not a straightforward task. Purchasers often just have to rely on trust in what marketers are telling them and sadly those marketers are not always honest.

Better Business Bureau, Baby

bbb-logo

Today we received accreditation from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and we’re so proud we want to shout it from the mountain tops. However, since we are not on mountain tops and it is rather late at night, we’ll happily post it to the internet via our blog and social media pages.

According to its website, the “BBB helps people find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust.”

Basically they help you, the consumer, know that you’re dealing with a reputable company that delivers on promises. Why does that matter to us? Honestly, because we save people so much money by monitoring and switching their energy supplier that it is a little unbelievable.

If you want to become a believer, sign up at http://www.EnergySimp.ly.

FAQ: What if Comed is the cheapest?

Comed’s electric rates have recently gone down in Illinois prompting the question: what if my cheapest option is the “default” option? In Illinois, if you don’t proactively choose a retail electric provider you auto-default to Comed. This is different from Texas where you must choose a retail electric provider.  Diagram.

For Customers Who Want the Cheapest Electric: There are times when Comed offers a competitive rate, but even when their prices go down, there are typically still a handful of cheaper rates or incentives packages that we can switch our customers into. While the savings might, for a limited time, become smaller they’re still savings. And when prices begin to swing back up – you’ll rest easy knowing that you’re still getting the cheapest.

The Green Answer: Many of our Illinois customers utilize our service to ensure they’re always getting the cheapest 100% renewable electricity. Typically the cost is the same or just slightly more, as outlined in this past blog post. Since we are constantly monitoring and switching our customers into the cheapest rates, our customers often get to take advantage of cash back and gift card incentives from their electric providers as well.

Seasons Changing, Energy Needs Changing

fall

Today marks the first day of October and you have likely made some changes in your home climate control (or soon will be.)  If you’re in a warm part of the country like Texas, your electricity needs may be decreasing significantly as the weather cools-off and you can turn-down your air conditioning.  If you’re in a cooler part of the country like Illinois, your electricity needs may be increasing as you need to heat your home.  For many of Energy Simply’s customers, electricity usage varies by more than 2x between the summer months and the winter months.

If you’re not already signed-up as a customer of Energy Simply, having us keep you in the best electricity plan for YOUR home, now is a great time to consider signing-up.  Learn more about how Energy Simply saves you significant money by keeping you in the best electricity plan for your home at: https://www.energysimp.ly/how-it-works.

Energy Simply Announces Aggressive New Referral Program

At Energy Simply we love our customers – and it appears they love us! We’ve been growing at a steady clip because our service is all about conveniently saving money – we take care of choosing the best electric plan and switching energy companies for you so you’ll always be in the cheapest or cheapest renewable plan.

chain of peopleThe less obvious part, which we have come to learn, is that the majority of our growth is due to customer referrals! Our customers love us so much they are encouraging their friends and family to sign up with us.  We don’t want to be free-riders on that love, so as a way to say THANK YOU we are offering $10 for every signed up customer referred to us. There’s no limit either, we will pay $10, $50 or $500 – we will be happy to encourage people to spread the word about our company.

Even If you don’t live in Illinois or Texas, you can still go to our referral program page to sign up to refer people you know who do live there. Once they’re signed up, we’ll process payment and put it in the mail. And…Thanks!

3-6″ of Snow in the Forecast

We blogged last week about the seasons changing – and the impact that will have on your electric bills. And it is about to get real in Northern, IL!

We are fans of Danny Neal and the Stormchaser’s blog. This morning  we woke up to news from Danny that Illinois can expect multiple inches of snow this Friday night and Saturday morning. winter storm watch

Hop on over to Danny’s blog and follow him on Facebook for great weather tracking…and, after you’ve done that – sign up with Energy Simply so you’ll know that you’re not paying way too much for electricity in these cold, dark winter months.

 

FAQ: Can I switch my electric power company?

You don’t have to keep overpaying for electricity,  or keep polluting the world with dirty electricity.  If you live in Texas or Illinois, you can switch and start getting cheaper and/or greener power now.

changesameIn Texas, if you are currently not under contract (on a month-to-month or pay as you go plan)  you can switch right now.  You can also switch right now, with no termination fee, if your plan expires in the next 14 days (you are within the state mandated grace period).  If you are not in either of those 2 groups, you can still switch right now, but you are likely under contract and subject to a termination fee ranging from $100-$200 if you switch.

If you fall into one of the first 2 groups you  should always switch right now.  You are definitely paying more than you need to if you have a month-to-month plan or a pay as you go plan, and if your plan expires in the next 14 days you want to switch now so the company can’t hit you with month-to-month variable rates upon contract expiration.  If you have a cancellation charge, it may still be worthwhile to switch.  Our average customers save ~$50/month and some of our customers have saved $100s/month.  If you haven’t changed providers in more than a year, you have more than a few months left on your contract, and you live in a 2000+ square-foot house, chances are you can save money by switching.  You can go to www.powertochoose.org and pick a plan.

Things to remember when picking a Texas plan:

1) Always choose a fixed price plan

2) You can often save money with 3-6 month plans

3) Make sure you note your contract end date, so you can sign yourself up for your next plan before the one you choose expires

4) Your use varies so take a look at www.smartmetertexas.com to help you figure out what your expected usage will actually be

5) Always look at the fact label and make sure the company isn’t playing games with pricing using large credits or other tricks to make their plan look cheaper

In Illinois, the vast majority of people will have no cost to switch (basically if you’ve never switched before there will be no cost to switch).  So you can go to www.pluginillinois.org,  choose a cheaper (current price to compare from ComEd is ~7¢/kWh ) or greener plan and in 3 to 7 weeks you will be receiving power from your new provider.

Two things to remember when choosing an Illinois plan:

1) Always choose a fixed price plan!

2) Make sure you know when your plan will end and remember to switch again to a new plan ~5 weeks before the end of your plan to avoid getting hit with variable rates at the end of your contract (to figure this out you also need to know when it starts).

And lastly,  remember there is an alternative to spending your precious tine staying on top of this stuff.  You can let Energy Simply manage it all for you.  We are electricity market experts and we are always thinking of ways to keep you in the best cheapest (and potentially greenest) plans.  We sign you up for the best available plan, track prices in case it ever makes sense to switch mid-contract, and switch you before your contract expires so you never get stuck paying variable rates.  And it will only cost you $5/month.  Sign up today!

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