By Vincent Palmieri | Energy Central
Every month, consumers receive their energy bills and like their cellphone, internet and cable bills, they automatically pay it. But unlike these other monthly bills, where consumers have shopped around for the best deals, took time to evaluate which mobile, television and internet providers to choose from, most consumers never even think about switching their energy supplier.
It is because consumers do not realize they even have a choice. And that is what their current energy supplier is betting on - the consumer's lack of knowledge - to keep them as the de facto supplier.
As the Chief Operating Officer of East Coast Power & Gas, I, like my peers, in this industry must take responsibility for not doing a better job in educating consumers on how fast, easy and seamless the process is to change from one supplier to another supplier. It is a much more simple process to change energy suppliers than to change mobile providers, mortgage companies, or cable and internet providers. In fact, the consumer only has to provide approval to change suppliers and we do all the work.
In most cases, the consumer will continue to receive only one utility bill and still pay the same utility company but, behind the scenes, the utility company will pay the consumer's new energy supplier, which would be a company like mine: East Coast Power & Gas, which is an Energy Service Company or "ESCO".
ESCOs, unlike utility companies, are incentivized to operate more efficiently as we are exposed to proper market conditions and effects while a utility company is a quasi-government regulated entity; typically not a bastion for competition. ESCOs compete and strive to give consumers innovative products at the best price. We can offer customers budget certainty through a fixed price contract as well as appeal to the environmentally conscious with our renewable products - both not offered by the utility!
Fixed rates shield consumers from the volatility of variable rates, which are the only cost pricing structure offered by utility companies. That is why consumers often get punished with big swings in their energy bills. Consumers have no control over variable rates but with ESCOs offering a competitive rate that can be locked in at a fixed rate, consumers have stability and can budget accordingly.
For all of us trying to be more environmentally conscious, we offer a sustainable solution. Clean green renewable sources of energy provide a tremendous benefit in doing something positive for the environment while saving money in the process. Providing more renewable sources of energy through the generation of power from sources like water, wind, solar, etc, is the future and ESCOs are committed to driving this mission.
This brings me to technology. Utility companies have benefited from a lack of competition, which creates inertia, and their systems and processes reflect this. Utility systems function at an antiquated level. How many of us have received a bill we can easily understand? ESCOs have new state-of-the-art systems and are constantly evolving because of competition.
Finally, let me end with oversight. ESCOs are not only incentivized to compete but we are also monitored and evaluated. States have a Public Service Commission offering online tools to evaluate ESCOs so that we operate in a credible, ethical and competitive manner. The consumer should always have transparent knowledge when it comes to making decisions on choosing their energy provider.
It has never been a better time to switch. If consumers only treated their energy suppliers the way they treated their other monthly bill companies, it would be a no brainer to change to the company that offered the best rates, best services, and was committed to doing something good for the environment. Consumer education is extremely important because as more people gain knowledge, they will want more accountability from their energy supplier. In doing so, I predict more consumers will kick their currently utility provider off their pedestal as they realize they have a choice in energy suppliers.