Should I stay or should I go?

735011 The Clash Should I Stay Or Should I Go Roman Pushkin Mixes You know the song by the Clash:

Darling you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
One day is fine, next is black
So if you want me off your back

Courtesy of Irene, Sandy and their friend Derecho, I have lost power three times in the past thirteen months for a total of twelve days. While the men and women who work around the clock to fix broken wires, telephone poles and transformers are heroes in my book, does that mean I should continue contributing to the profits of their parent company?

Which leaves me wondering, should I stay with my utility or should I go with a new provider?

The “standard offer” price of electricity for residential customers changed on October 1 for Maryland and Delaware, and  November 1 for DC as part of the normal switch to winter rates – which are generally lower than the summer rates (see the companion post for background on standard offer and retail rates), but what are my alternatives?

Money In Light Pc 800 Clr 3084Some retail electric providers offer variable rate deals, where the price you pay for power varies each month according to market fluctuations. North American Power offers a month-to-month deal at 7.49 cents/kWh, for instance in BGE's territory – that’s more than 16% better than the 8.96 ¢/kWh BGE is charging now and through Spring 2013. In PEPCO's Maryland territory, Viridian will offer you variable rate power currently priced at 7.64 ¢/kwh, almost 12% lower than the standard offer rate of 8.67 ¢/kWh. As I ponder this option, I can't help but think, why leave the safety of my good old utility to take the risk of fluctuating rates? I'm not sure this is a convincing story, what else is out there?

The most common offer is a 1-year deal. Retailers offer a fixed price, no matter market fluctuations. But how do I compare those prices to a utility rate which is only set through May of next year? After that it’ll go up to the higher summer rate again. Luckily, ClearlyEnergy provides you with an estimated 1-year rate, so the number to compare with retail electric providers is about 9.3 cents/kWh for BGE,  8.9 cents/kWh for PEPCO (both MD and DC) and 9.0 cents/kWh for DPL in Delaware.

For BGE, Oasis Energy and Castlebridge Solutions 1-year deal of, respectively, 7.89 and 7.99 cents/kWh come up looking the best in this type of comparison: that's almost 16% lower than ClearlyEnergy's 1-year price to compare. What is that in cold, hard cash? The average Mid-Atlantic household uses about 14,000 kWh of electricity per year, so you can use the rule of thumb that 1 cent/kWh off your power price is $140 in your pocket over a year meaning the Oasis and Castlebridge deals save you $200 compared to staying a year at the standard rate! With similar logic, you can save $140 with Castlebridge in PEPCO-MD, and over $100 with Constellation in PEPCO-DC.

What if being green motivates you as much as saving green? Renewable energy tends to cost more, but some firms are offering competitive prices that provide you with guilt-free power. For example, Clean Currents has a 1-year deal for 8.6 cents/kWh in BGE terriroty that supplies 50% renewable energy; that still saves you $80 a year relative to standard offer. In PEPCO-DC, Nextera offers 100% green power for 1-year at a price on par with standard offer, what is there to loose?

Beyond individual deals, here’s a look at the market overall: ClearlyEnergy calculated proprietary retail power market indexes that represent the average price for 1-year, monthly, and renewable energy deals by utility and by month. Comparing these indexes against the utility standard offer, you can get a feel for how good the deals really are – remember that 1 cent lower is about $140 saved per year. So take a look at the price comparison below as of November 1, 2012, decide for yourself…and to check what retail electric deals are available to you in your area, click here!

State Utility CE's Forecasted One-Year
Utility Rate (¢/kWh)
CE Market Index (¢/kWh)
One-Year Monthly One-Year
>50% Renewable
MD Baltimore Gas & Electric 9.4 8.52 8.66 9.36
MD Potomac Electric Power Co. 8.8 8.61 8.64 9.48
MD Delmarva Power & Light 8.9 8.17 7.93 8.92
MD Potomac Edison 6.3 5.78 N/A 6.55
DE Delmarva Power & Light 9.0 9.43 8.66 10.0
DC Potomac Electric Power Co. 9.2 8.58 N/A 9.32

This indecision’s bugging me

If you don't want me, set me free
So you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

By Veronique Bugnion, co-Founder ClearlyEnergy. You can find me on Google+


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