Note that this is not to be confused with Texas’ Power to Choose program, the official energy choice program for the state of Texas.

In the 1990s, New York State opened the state’s electric and natural gas industries to competition. This act created a shift in the market, which allowed both residential and business consumers to take advantage of lower energy prices and new services.

Today, there are two parts to an energy bill.  They include delivery and supply.

Utility companies are responsible for delivering energy and responding to emergency situations. When it comes to who supplies the energy, New York State consumers now have the option to choose between the utility and an Energy Services Company (ESCO).  ESCOs are also commonly referred to as REPs, or retail energy/electric providers, in other states.

A customer?s ability to choose who supplies their energy has given them the opportunity to perhaps better manage their energy costs and find a lower electric rate than what they’re paying today.

Guidelines and Rules for ESCOs

To ensure both utilities and ESCOs provide consistent services, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) issued a set of rules known as Uniform Business Practices (UBPs). These UBPs protect consumers, simplify business protocols and require that all utilities and ESCOs remain compliant.

The PSC also requires that ESCOs deliver secure energy alternatives to their customers. They must disclose their complaint resolution process, provide the customer 15 days notice before discontinuing service, offer procedures for switching suppliers and remain in compliance with the Home Energy Fair Practices Act.

These established rules makes it easy for a customer to switch back to a utility should they become unhappy with their selected ESCO.

Power to Choose:  Utility or ESCO?

Consumers have the option to choose who supplies the energy to their home or business.

Based on market conditions, the cost of energy changes from month to month. To remain competitive with utilities, ESCOs offer different plans and services that include fixed or variable rates. Value-added services are often provided to give customers the choice of renewable energy sources like hydro or solar.

Customers can also typically purchase additional equipment to help keep track of their energy use. The majority of these types of services are not offered by utilities.

That being said, deciding to sign up with an ESCO does not necessarily translate to automatic savings. In situations where customers purchase only electricity and/or natural gas, some ESCOs charge more than utilities. Certain value-added services might also tack on extra charges.

Ultimately, the decision is left in the hands of the consumer. It is up to them to do their research and choose the option that best suits their needs.