Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dumping Duke?

It has been a long day but now you’re home and ready to relax and perhaps have a nice dinner and watch some TV.  Your respite from the hectic day is short lived and interrupted by a phone call from Debbie insisting that she needs to speak to the person who pays the Duke bill.  This scenario plays out daily across the tri state as alternative electricity suppliers vie for your business.  With energy prices going up you may be wondering if these options might indeed be worth looking at.  The short answer is yes, but as with any major purchasing decision, buyer beware.  For sure, electricity costs spread over a year do amount to a major purchase for many.

First let’s take a look at what these companies are selling.  Of course they are not going to be running new power lines to your house.  They are selling the actual electrical power.  If you look at your most recent bill from Duke Energy or other electric provider you will see that your total monthly electricity charges are made up of two items; generation and distribution.   Even if you decide to switch providers, Duke will still handle getting the power to your home or business.  That is the distribution part and you will still get a bill, albeit less than what you get now, for that service.

So should you switch?  There is no one right answer.  By switching, you are locking into a price per kilowatt hour for a long term.  That term is usually three or more years.  In most cases the alternate energy supplier will have a price less than what you are now paying to Duke.  You can check that by looking on your bill and seeing what you pay for generation and compare it with the quote from the new provider. 

The issue is that distribution costs are not covered and these can rise.  For example Duke petitioned the PUCO recently to recoup the expenses from the windstorm of a few years back resulting in increased charges for all of us.

If you use a lot of electricity, in most cases going to an alternate provider will save you money.  But do your homework and do not agree to a new contract on the phone.  Do not give your Duke account number to someone on the phone or on your front porch as unethical commission-based sales people can switch your account without your OK.  Instead ask for materials to be sent to you so you can do the calculations and make a studied decision.  If the company is on the up and up, they should have no issue with you taking some time to review the decision.  After all, if it is a good deal today, it should be a good deal next week.


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