I am often asked how to get a “good deal” in choosing an energy supplier?
In the past, my answer typically began with an explanation of how “deregulation” or “customer choice” developed (which gets me glassy-eyed looks), which was followed by general advice such as: determine the quality of supplier; review the terms and conditions and then the pricing.
However, as we are having renewals with our customers reoccurring for the 4th, 5th and 6th time, I think what these customers have told me is more relevant….
In addition, during our 12+ years we seen many, many processes from consultants, aggregators or in request for proposals, I have consolidated these experiences into what I believe is a list of best practices;
1. Assemble a copy of all your bills (either electric or gas) including the following (this will help you eliminate or question what a marketer sends you in step 2).
a. Identify the energy cost on the bill(s).
b. Identify the delivery cost on the bill(s).
c. Add up the total energy used (either kwh for electric or Therms for natural gas) for 1-12 months, pairing each month with the energy cost (the delivery cost will not change).
2. Contact marketers and ask them for a proposal for service.
a. A list is available at: http://realgyenergyservices.com/customer-services/web-links/ under each utility.
b. Eliminate the ones who do not reply.
c. For ones who reply, ask for a comparison for at least the last 12 months of how their proposal price compared to the utility cost. Again, eliminate those who do not respond.
d. Look at how the marketer’s pricing and the utility pricing are presented.
IN MANY CASES marketers may be above a utility in some months; they should be able to explain why.
AVOID those that are above the utility for 12 months in a row.
AVOID those marketers whose comparison does not accurately show the utility cost.
3. With the marketers who responded and sent you their pricing comparison, ask for their terms and conditions (contract or Agreement). Read their agreements paying special attention to the following;
a. Pricing; is it defined, how long does it last, and what happens when it ends?
b. Quantity; if you’re buying a fixed price make sure it says how much gas you’re buying at the fixed price and what happens if you use more or less than that amount. If you’re buying a variable rate, it should state it’s for all your usage or “open” quality.
c. Renewal; when do you have to give notice to terminate, what happens if you don’t?
d. Additional Services: is storage included, what about changing plans (from variable to fixed), taxes, service fee, online access, answered customer service (vs. automated attendants), etc. Some additional service is worth the price, some are not.
While not an official step, there are good reasons to eliminate a marketer from consideration (in other words, absolutely avoid), such reasons include;
a. No trade references or BBB accreditation.
b. An initial rate (fixed or variable) that lasts only 1-6 months and renews which is followed by a different (perhaps) vaguely defined price. These are known as “teaser” rates and will inevitably cost you more than the utility.
c. Language that doesn’t make sense is not clear in its intent or clearly favors the marketer.
d. A renewal date scheduled during the winter or summer. Make sure you can terminate your agreement for natural gas or electricity in April or May. This will give you the best period to switch or renew during a “low” energy usage period when pricing is more stable and you will not be under pressure to continue the agreement.