In a deregulated energy market, utilities still maintain control over electricity delivery and maintenance processes. That being said, utilities must allow suppliers to enter the market and offer services.
As deregulation increases the number of organizations that offer supply services, it helps generate competition. Competition can produce better rates and services for consumers as suppliers compete for the same customers.
Energy Choice in Ohio
Apples to Apples is Ohio’s official state program that helps energy consumers in Ohio better understand energy deregulation and electricity provider options. The program is ran and maintained by the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO).
If you are a consumer living in Ohio, checking out Apples to Apples is a great way to start saving money on energy. The site is easy to use and navigate, and is full of important information on many different elements of energy deregulation. Overall, the program is a wonderful resource to help you achieve your energy goals for either your home or business.
Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO)
Every state has a Public Utility Commission (PUC). In the United States, this state run organization is the entity responsible for regulating rates and services for public utilities like energy (electricity, natural gas, etc.).
When it comes to Apples to Apples, the PUCO generates aggregated lists or comparisons of electric supplier contract terms, rates and other pricing options (similar to what we do at ElectricChoice.com). The generated lists on the Apples to Apples website is populated in real-time and the suppliers are presented to all consumers in a random order.
PUCO is not responsible for updating the rates and prices. The supplier is required to keep this information up to date, but it’s always best to confirm the validity and accuracy of a contract term prior to signing on the dotted line. In addition, if a customer is currently signed up with an alternate provider and they want to switch to another provider, an Early Termination Fee might apply.
Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIIP PLUS)
This plan assists consumers living in Ohio to keep their electricity and natural gas services through an extended payment arrangement. The payments are determined by a percentage of the household’s income. If the consumer is consistent with their payments (is on-time and pays the full amount) they receive credits that reduce the outstanding balance. This means that over a 24-month period, a consumer on this type of plan can erase the outstanding balance.
It is important to note that if you are currently enrolled in this plan, you cannot switch to a different provider.
Electricity in Ohio
This state based program provides a lot of information for consumers about electricity and energy deregulation in general. This information includes:
Certified Electric Suppliers: Accessing this area of the website gives you a complete list of approved electric suppliers in Ohio. Selecting a supplier from this list is the best approach when researching different options. The list includes complete contact information for every electricity provider.
Compare Electric Offers: This online tool allows you to search through an aggregated list of electricity providers, plans, rates and contracts. The tool will aggregate this list based on whether you are a residential, small business, or large commercial/business energy consumer. It will also present information based on your current utility and zip code (area of service). While this tool helps to generate a list of options, it is important to contact the electricity supplier directly to confirm that the rates, etc. are accurate.
Electric Customer Rights: As a consumer of electricity there are certain laws in place to help protect you from unfair business practices. This area of the Apples to Apples website provides in depth information for how to file a complaint, or who to contact. It also provides other general customer rights information including, deposit requirements, payment arrangements, disconnected services, reading an electric meter and more.
Electricity Provider Map: This map of Ohio shows consumers the different areas of service for specific electricity providers.
Steps to Switching: It is sometimes difficult to understand how to switch to an alternate provider. This area of Apples to Apples outlines the specific steps that are required to make the process clear to consumers.
Understanding Your Electricity Bill: When a customer receives an electricity bill, there are often terms or details that are confusing or unclear. Apples to Apples aims to clarify these terms or items in order to help people better understand what it is that they pay for every month.
What to Ask Suppliers: Before a consumer signs up with an electricity supplier, it is important to ask questions to determine if the fit is right. However, sometimes consumers don’t know what kinds of questions to ask. Apples to Apples helps to make this process easier by providing a list of questions.
Where Does Ohio’s Electricity Come From?: Apples to Apples also provides information on how Ohio generates its electricity, where it comes from, how it gets to the consumer, etc. This information helps to paint a broader picture of the industry and current energy market.
Natural Gas in Ohio
The other side of energy deregulation is natural gas. In Ohio, the natural gas market is also deregulated, which means that consumers have the option to choose their natural gas supplier. Apples to Apples provides consumers with information regarding natural gas, much of which is very similar to the sections on electricity suppliers.
This information includes:
- Certified Gas Suppliers
- Compare Natural Gas Offers
- Natural Gas Provider Map
- Reading Your Natural Gas Meter
- Steps to Switching
- Understanding Your Natural Gas Bill
- What to Ask Suppliers
Some of the information available on Apples to Apples doesn’t apply just to electricity or natural gas consumers. The website also includes details on other related elements including,
- How to find utility information
- Glossary of energy related terms
- Ways to save energy
- Where to register or log a complaint
- Request a speaker
- Information on Aggregation
- Reasons why consumers should make the switch
- Other related state agencies
Many other deregulated states have official “energy choice” programs, programs such as Power to Choose, Energize Connecticut, and Plug in Illinois.