The Energy Consumer's Bulletin- a New England energy news blog

The Energy Consumer's Bulletin

They knocked on my door! The competitive electricity supplier conundrum

Posted by Katy Kidwell on Saturday, June 04, 2016 @ 08:00 AM

Have you recently received salespeople at your door or offers in the mail from competitive electricity suppliers? They lay the pitch on thick with too-good-to be true rates and feel-good energy mixes. It may seem hard to poke holes in the pitch, but under the smiling surface, many of these suppliers use smoke and mirror marketing to get their foot in the door and your signature on a contract.

Alternative electric supply is absolutely not a bad thing. Since 1997, Massachusetts has had a deregulated electricity market to allow residents to take their energy purchase into their own hands. This is great news for renewable energy. But, unfortunately it paves the way for these profiteering suppliers to take advantage of the general public’s basic understanding of electricity markets.

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A Case Study: "Clean Energy Option," now called "CleanChoice Energy"

Eastern Massachusetts residents (in Eversource territory) have been receiving a mailing from a competitive electricity supplier, Ethical Electric, under the name "CleanChoice Energy" (formerly “Clean Energy Option”). The supplier was advertising a new “clean energy option for Eversource customers.” However, the mailing was deceptive to the point that many recipients thought they were getting information about an Eversource clean power option.

Beware— “CleanChoice Energy"/"Clean Energy Option” is not from or sanctioned by Eversource. Instead, it is confusing marketing from a competitive electricity supplier. By providing a vague message about a feel-good power option, mentioning of the recipient’s utility, and providing an easy way to enroll instantly, the supplier can harness consumers’ unfamiliarity with available power options and provoke a snap decision. And this is not uncommon.

Don't take the bait from "green" competitive suppliers.

Not all renewable energy purchases shift the power grid away from fossil fuels. There are many generators that would get built whether or not you specifically purchase renewable energy from them. And there are many who can only get built with specific consumer demand. The latter are distinguished by MA state law as “Class I.” When you can buy Class I renewables and truly shift the power grid, why would you ever buy non-Class I?

Mass Energy and People’s Power & Light are sister nonprofits who have been supplying Class I renewable energy to Massachusetts and Rhode Island consumers for 15 years (via New England Wind and New England GreenStart). Our nonprofit mission to grow renewable energy in New England guided the design of our programs, and our members are proud to shift our power grid with every electric bill.

To help you better understand the options available to you when it comes to clean power, here are the key points that we built our green power program around:

  • Celebrating_Lynn_smaller.jpgLocal renewable energy: Many suppliers claim that their renewable energy comes "from your region." Much like the word "natural" on food packaging, this does not mean anything. The important question is how much of the supply comes from Massachusetts Class I Renewable EnergyNew England GreenStart matches 25% of your usage with Class I, and New England Wind, 100%. Both percentages are in addition to the 11% that the utility (and all competitive suppliers) are required by law to provide on your behalf.
  • Making a difference: Buying Class I renewable energy may cost more because your investment is funding new renewable energy development. Buying cheap renewable energy, included in many competitive supplier products to help you both "save money and go green," does nothing to fund or create new local renewable energy.
  • Price transparency: Most competitive suppliers offer a cheaper price for a short period of time. This is because their basis for comparison, the utilty's Basic Service rate, changes every 6 months. In July, Basic Service rates are likely to fall. Savings may not last beyond then. Furthermore, when your contract with a competitive supplier ends you are usually placed on their variable month-to-month rate, which can cost more than you bargained for. Mass Energy's green power products, by contrast, always add the same fixed price per kWh to your regular electricity charges, and you can see it on our website now and any day. 
  • Mission-driven nonprofit: Your support of Mass Energy goes beyond your household electricity. It helps us advocate for good energy policy to support more renewable energy in our state. We are driven by our mission, not a bottom line.
  • Renewable energy tours: We are the only renewable energy option that takes you to see the renewable energy in your electricity mix. Don't miss our next tour on April 23rd in Wrentham, MA.

If you or a friend is thinking of making the switch, make sure they make the switch that makes a difference. Don't be fooled by gimmicks from competitive suppliers.

Without the support of thousands of Mass Energy and PP&L members over the past 15 years, hundreds of small renewable energy projects in Massachusetts wouldn't be here today. If you are already a member, we appreciate your membership deeply, and will continue to strive to show you that you've made the right choice. If you aren’t, we hope you consider making the switch with us. Reach out to us with questions anytime at 800-287-3950 x5.

Learn more about our local renewable energy initiatives, make the switch today

Tags: renewable energy, electricity

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