Tonight’s the Night

November 21, 2011

Tonight’s the night…..

 

Hurricane Swartz makes his long range winter forecast…

 

 

 

You know the guy with the bowtie?

 

 

How cold is it going to be?

 

How much snow will we get?

 

 

Remember last year?

 

We had that big snowstorm right around Thanksgiving…

 

 

What’s going on with this weather?

 

Here it is mid-November…..

 

Janet and I just got our winter clothes out

 

 

 

Dealing in the energy market

 

The one constant we discuss is temperature

 

 

Back in September

 

We were getting reports saying

 

 

 

The long range forecast calls for an exceptionally cold November

 

 

When will that start……

 

 

November 30th

 

 

 

Those statements kept pushing natural gas prices up

 

 

We held firm….

 

 

We waited….

 

 

We’ll see….

 

 

Here it is mid-November and temperatures are still in the 60s

 

Natural gas prices keep dropping

 

 

A whole market opportunity has opened up

 

 

With prices so low

 

We start to measure risk

 

 

How much lower can prices go?

 

 

 

Don’t you love this kind of stuff?

 

 

 

 

Can natural gas prices go lower?

 

 

Yes!!!

 

But there is more upside risk

 

 

 

With prices being sooooo low,

 

 

 

One cold snap and …

 

 

The market price can jump up fast…

 

 

 

It’s called the whiplash effect

 

 

 

Prices always go up faster…

 

 

And then they take their good old time coming back down

 

 

 

Now here’s my shameless HBS plug

 

 

For those businesses still buying natural gas from their local provider

 

This is a great time to lock into a very competitive fixed price contract

 

 

 

There we go….

 

I said it

 

 

Now the disclaimer…

 

 

Some circumstances may not allow you to qualify

 

            Your monthly usage may be too small

 

                                          or

           

            We find stop service notices on your bill

 

 

 

 

 

Pick it up Hutch

 

 

Let’s get back on topic

 

 

Ohhhhh…..OK

 

 

 

So……..

 

Hurricane….

 

 

What will you say?

 

 

How cold will it be?

 

 

How much snow will we get?

 

 

 

I just bought a new snow shovel last year

 

 

I’ll be ready

 

 

 

PS: This was written on Wednesday. If you want to know what Hurricane said, you will have to go online and Google it.

By Andrew Maykuth

Inquirer Staff Writer

Pennsylvania electricity customers are skeptical they can save much by
shopping for power.

Although 88 percent of customers say they are aware they can switch to
alternative suppliers, only 45 percent have shopped, according to a statewide
survey conducted by Terry Madonna Opinion Research.

Twenty-three percent of residential customers statewide have switched,
according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. About 1.4 million
customers have switched.

Madonna and several electricity suppliers told the PUC on Thursday that
nearly a year after Pennsylvania’s retail utility deregulation went into full
effect, the public remains wary of shopping.

“There are a fair number of people who did not look into changing an electric
supplier because they didn’t believe there would be long-term savings in it,”
said Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin
and Marshall College in Lancaster.

The poll results were presented Thursday at a PUC hearing on competition.

The surveys found that price was the main concern driving customers to
switch, but many said the perceived savings were insufficient to make them
switch.

Suppliers said some residential customers have recorded savings up to $300 a
year.

Madonna, who conducted his telephone survey of 801 customers in September on
behalf of Constellation Energy, said 78 percent said they would consider
switching if they could save 10 percent on their generation charge.

Many customers who declined to shop said they were happy with their current
supplier regardless of the cost.

Madonna’s findings were echoed by an Internet survey of 450 customers
conducted by AlphaBuyer, a Paoli group- buyer that markets online.

Forty percent of the customers said the savings were not worth it, said Kevin
McCloskey, AlphaBuyer’s chief operating officer. About 24 percent said shopping
was too confusing or the choices overwhelming. About 15 percent said switching
was too risky or that it was a “scam.”

Under Pennsylvania’s Electric Choice law, customers can choose a company that
markets the power. Billing is still conducted by the incumbent utility company,
which collects a fee for distributing the power.

Customers who don’t switch are still supplied by the utility at a default
rate.

Only 18 percent of customers had visited the PUC’s website for choosing a
supplier. PUC members said more customer education was needed.

“It’s perplexing to us with all the tools being made available to customers
we only see 20 percent of the residential customers shopping,” said Robert F.
Powelson, PUC chairman.

Our Perspective:

HBS has been dealing in the deregulated energy market for over 10 years. I have always been suspect of the proposed residential savings in this market.  Most of the time you are offered a floating rate that may offer minimal savings.

The opposite is true in the commercial market. There are providers offering fixed price alternatives that offer a great opportunity for savings. HBS has found great success in the PA commercial deregulated market. We represent all the major providers selling electric in the PA market.

There is no upfront cost. Deregulated savings in the energy market has been a welcomed windfall for any business in both the New Jersey and Peennsylvania market who willing to look at the opportunity.

 

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20111111_Most_in_Pa__avoid_shopping_for_electricity_supplier.html#ixzz1ddcYbDS5

The Dilemma

September 23, 2011

Natural Gas prices continue to be very competitive.

 

However…

 

This has presented a dilemma.

 

 

 

When you request pricing for an existing client,

 

Who has been participating in the deregulated market…

 

 

And

 

 

You compare the proposed price

 

vs

 

What the client has paid over the past 12 months.

 

 

Guess what???

 

 

 

The price normally is higher than what they have paid.

 

 

 

The client’s response normally is:

 

 

Why is it more?

 

 

Why can’t I play less?

 

 

 

That’s a good question,

 

 

 

Now what answer do you
want?

 

 

 

 

Let’s just stick to
the facts

 

 

 

The truth is that the natural gas market is a moving target

 

It is a commodity that is being traded 24/7

 

 

 

 

Several years ago (2008),

 

Natural gas prices shot up

 

 

Market prices were $12 – $14 a decatherm

 

Which translates into $1.20 – $1.40 a therm

 

 

That was the commodity cost to the providers

 

 

 

So consumers were even paying a higher rate

 

 

 

Since that time, prices have steadily dropped

 

 

 

You have probably seen me reference

 

That many analyst saw natural gas pricing

 

Reach a floor in

 

Late October / November 2010.

 

 

Problem is….

 

That nobody knows where the floor is…

 

 

Until you pass it

 

 

 

Well guess what??

 

 

Prices may once again be creating a floor as we speak.

 

 

The Nymex continues to drop

 

It has gone full circle over the last year

 

 

What do you mean the
last year?

 

 

It has gone full circle over the past 2 months

 

 

 

I have a friend, who
is a chiropractor,

 

He asked me what is
wrong with my neck.

 

 

I told him I have been
watching the Nymex!!!

 

 

 

The problem becomes….

 

 

There is more upside risk

 

Then there is downside risk.

 

 

Translated……

 

How much lower can prices go?

 

 

All future indications show prices going up

 

 

 

What are your options:

 

 

 

Float the market while prices continue to remain low

 

 

If you see prices starting to go up

 

You can always turn around and lock your position

 

 

There are various other options…

 

Winter locks…Lock in the price for months with the highest
usage

 

 

Basis locks….Lock in the transportation cost and float the
nymex

 

 

Anyone of these options can be used

 

To be proactive against future price spikes

 

 

 

 

Another issue:

 

 

 

We spoke in the past that natural gas prices

 

Are made up of 2 components

 

Nymex… The cost of natural gas out of the ground in Gulf of
Mexico

Basis…… The cost of transporting the gas from LA to your
local provider

 

Index…….The sum of the 2 or the base cost of the commodity
to the provider

 

 

While the Nymex prices are creating new floor space

 

The basis cost is higher than it should be

 

The result….

 

Adding a low Nymex cost

 

To a higher than normal basis cost

 

Gives you a higher overall cost

 

Then what you were paying over the last year

 

 

 

I find this all very
interesting…

 

(You have to say that
while you are rubbing your chin)

 

 

What should you do?

 

 

HBS presents all the options

 

 

We look at where the market has been

 

 

What are the future projections showing?

 

 

We look to educate our clients

 

So they have a full understanding of how the market works

 

 

We want our clients to feel comfortable

 

 

 

Knowing that they made the best decision

 

For their company

 

When all the facts were presented

 

 

 

To learn more about
deregulated energy opportunities for your business email george@hbsadvantage.com

 

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

As reported in Courier Post 8/19/11

 

New Jersey’s proposed energy policy calls for 22.5 percent  of the state’s power to come from renewable sources within 10 years  a goal that was the subject of heavy debate at a legislative hearing  attended by nearly 100 people Thursday.

Environmentalists said they want a 30 percent target, but business  leaders said that would drive their costs up.

State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, defended the goal proposed  in Gov. Chris Christie’s draft energy master plan, calling it fair  and an “aggressive standard.”

Only eight states have higher renewable portfolio standards  than 22.5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy website.  The standards are state policies that require electricity providers  to obtain a minimum percentage of their power from renewable energy  resources, including the sun and wind, by a certain date.

After Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club made a case for  the higher benchmark, Beck said: “I’ve been told on many occasions  that’s a stretch for us. We know solar and wind are great sources,  but they’re not particularly reliable, and that’s a challenge.  There’s also a responsibility for us to be realistic to set goals  that can be met.”

New Jersey currently obtains less than 10 percent of its electricity  supply from renewable energy sources.

But Tittel noted that New Jersey has ramped up, with more than  10,000 solar arrays installed. Only California has more.

“We’re No. 2 in solar installations. We shouldn’t go back,”  said Tittel, who added that he fears Christie’s policy could jeopardize  funding for renewable energy projects for homeowners and small  businesses and affect more than 200 solar companies in New Jersey.

Corporate executives who testified said the current relative  high costs of solar energy should not be discounted.

Michael Egenton, senior vice president of government relations  for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said the poor economy underscores  the need for an energy policy that loosens restrictions. He praised  Christie’s plan.

“I think you have to look at everything in context,” said Egenton,  who said money spent on higher energy costs by companies would lead  to less money spent on operations and investments. “You have to  look at the bigger picture.”

The joint legislative hearing took place at the Toms River town  hall and was co-chaired by Sen. Bob Smith and Assemblyman John McKeon,  both Democrats.

State energy regulators also are holding hearings this month  and will vote to adopt a final energy policy later this year.

The lawmakers on the panel received an admonishment from Janet  Tauro, an environmentalist who is co-chairwoman of Grandmothers,  Mothers and More for Energy Safety.

With the topic turned to energy conservation, Tauro made a common  sense suggestion:

“We can turn down the air conditioning and turn off lights,”  said Tauro, also of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

Most of the panel members were in jackets or sweaters.

There was little reaction from the panel after Tauro, a Brick  resident, made her comment. Later the room became colder, and more  lights were turned on.

Solar makes sense

May 31, 2011

As reported in Philadelphia Inquire May 30, 2011
With Pennsylvania
boasting the nation’s second largest number of solar-industry jobs, state
officials would be foolish to let the sun set on such a nascent but promising
industry. But that could happen due to a temporary mismatch between solar-energy
financing and market demand.

The construction of more than 4,000 solar projects has been a roaring
success, responsible for generating several thousand jobs at 600 solar
businesses. Growing that industry from scratch, with state and federal aid, also
boosted the use of nonpolluting and renewable energy. That will be particularly
helpful in meeting summer’s peak demand.

Yet, the boom in solar projects has outpaced the amount of solar energy
utilities are required to buy under the state’s alternative-energy rules. That
has depressed the value of solar-energy credits needed to provide a return on
photovoltaic solar systems, which have a steep, up-front price tag.

The best way for state officials to spur solar to new heights would be to
boost the modest solar-energy standard – now far lower than neighboring states,
at only 0.5 percent – by 2021. But last year, that idea ran into strong
opposition from Exelon and other utilities, coal producers, and business groups
– and a certain Republican candidate for governor.

Fortunately, a fellow Republican, State Rep. Chris Ross from Chester County,
unveiled a legislative proposal Tuesday that should be more to Gov. Corbett’s
liking. Ross would accelerate the amount of solar energy utilities are required
to purchase for the next few years, but leave the overall standard at just 0.5
percent. He would also follow other states by barring out-of-state solar
producers contributing to the solar glut in Pennsylvania.

The Ross proposal amounts to a tweak, but one that could be critical to
maintaining the state’s foothold in solar energy. Corbett and Republican
legislative leaders could fall back on tea-party ideological antagonism toward
so-called government mandates – or they could prove themselves progressive
enough to embrace a modest plan that makes sense for the state’s 21st-century
economy.

The California-based solar leasing firm Sungevity announced a deal on Monday with home improvement giant Lowe’s that could make obtaining a personalized estimate for installing solar panels a push-button affair at Lowe’s outlets.

The deal gives Lowe’s just under a 20 percent stake in Sungevity, according to a solar industry source, though neither company would discuss specific dollar figures.

Under the agreement, scheduled to launch in 30 Lowe’s stores in California in July, customers will be able to access kiosks equipped with Sugevity’s iQuote system, a Web-based application that allows homeowners to simply enter their address and receive a firm installation estimate within 24 hours, eliminating the expense of an on-site visit.

The system combines aerial and satellite image analysis with research by Sungevity engineers at the company’s Oakland headquarters to assess the geometry of a home’s rooftop, its disposition to the sun at different times of day and year and any potential occlusions presented by nearby vegetation or built objects.

In addition to an installation estimate, customers can also get a visual rendering of their home with solar panels installed. And if interested parties provide information on typical power usage, such as an account number or past electric bills, the iQuote system can estimate potential savings expected from using the equipment.

The iQuote system can already be used online, and the company’s founder, Danny Kennedy, estimated that roughly 25,000 users had taken it for a test drive, though only about 1,500 of those had been converted to sales.

The deal with Lowe’s, Kennedy said, could help Sungevity — a petite player in the solar leasing market compared to bigger players like SolarCity of San Mateo, Calif., or San Francisco-based SunRun, which raised $200 million in financing earlier this month — significantly expand its reach.

“This will help us to get in front of thousands more customers, in front of middle America,” Kennedy told The Huffington Post. “We’ll be taking it to the ‘burbs, as it were.”

Despite tough economic times and often uncertain economic incentives, a number of analyses predict a boom year for solar power in 2011.

A report published in December by IDC Energy Insights, a market research firm based in Framingham, Mass., estimated following a healthy 2010, the solar market in North America could well see two gigawatts of solar power installations this year.

Jay Holman, the report’s lead analyst, told The Huffington Post that those numbers had been revised somewhat, but that 2011 was still expected to bring in 1.6 gigawatts of new solar installations, roughly double the 2010 total.

Part of the reason for America’s interest in solar energy may be a decline in the robust incentives the once drew a deluge of equipment and installations to the European market, particularly countries like Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy, Holman said. Those countries have begun to scale back their subsidies, forcing companies to look to other markets.

Meanwhile, federal tax incentives, including a 30 percent tax cash grant extended through the end of 2011, have helped keep solar alive. Several states have healthy incentives in place as well, including the eight states where the Sungevity/Lowes deal will eventually be rolled out: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Holman also said solar leasing companies like Sungevity, SunRun and Solar City, which retain ownership of the equipment while reducing or, in many cases, eliminating the up-front installation costs, also help drive the expansion of solar power.

“Obviously, we’re obsessed with being customer-focused,” said Kennedy. “We hope that this deal will make going solar as easy as shopping for light bulbs.”

Online Auctions

March 31, 2011

The deregulated energy market is causing a big buzz in this area. In the spring of 2010, NJ opened up deregulated opportunities to the residential market.

In January 2011, PA opened up the Peco territory to deregulation after a 5 year moratorium.

As the result, the market has been flooded with companies and individuals trying to capitalize on these opportunities.

Online Auction opportunities are now available. All you have to do is type buying deregulated energy online into your Google page and you will have multiple selections.

Also many companies have been promoting a Multi-level marketing approach to set up a grass roots effort in hopes of gaining penetration in the market.

.

As more consumers have grown more comfortable with on line purchasing, it seemed natural that this avenue would be an effective marketing option.

The only problem we see is that when buying energy in the deregulated market, you are dealing with a commodity. This puts a whole new spin on the opportunity.

This week, we would like to take a look at on line auctions.

Below is a plus-minus list we have developed to help you make an objective decision about purchasing energy on line versus using an independent broker.

On Line Auctions:

Plus

  • Feel like you are getting a good deal by participating in an ecommerce transaction
  • Potentially lower price by doing the ecommerce transaction 
  • Potentially easier transaction since there is limited contact with 3rd party energy suppliers
  • Electricity is a commodity and customer’s management feels this is best process for doing transaction

 

Minus

  • Can be more challenging to negotiate terms & conditions  
  • Potentially less leverage with suppliers since there is no personal interaction
  • Difficult determining what factors are included in the price.
    •  Is it fully loaded? (contains 7% loss transmission and sales tax)
    •  Is it a fixed rate or variable rate?
  • How do you know when is the best time to buy
  • Online auctioneers are brokers approaching the same providers we would be using.
  • Many on line auction companies do not have any information on their website regarding the management of the company

 

Dealing with an Independent Broker (Hutchinson Business Solutions)

 

Plus   

  • We represent all the major 3rd party providers selling energy in deregulated sates
  • We offer personal service, individually marketing your account to these providers
  • We monitor market fluctuations and discuss timing with our clients
  • We offer fixed price solutions (Other options available for large volume users)
  • We make sure all prices received are fully loaded and are an apples to apples comparison to your local utility’s price to compare
  • Due to our business relationships, we bring leverage to the deal
  • We assist with customer’s legal team in negotiating the business terms of the contract as they may apply
  • We provide options, defining the best terms and conditions and service the account throughout the term of the contract, addressing issues as they arise
  • We have been advising customer risk management strategies in the deregulated markets for over 10 years.
  • Opportunity to outsource many of the tasks involved with the energy procurement process while retaining the control and final decisions on any potential transaction

 

Minus

  • The energy market is in a growth mode, many new faces and the information is sketchy.
  • You must be sure to deal with a reputable company who will represent your best interest
  • Many of the new companies are offering variable rates

 

At first glance you may think this overview is biased.

Yes, we are an independent broker. We take pride in the value we have brought to our clients in the deregulated market.

We have just seen too much abuse. The deregulated energy market is an unknown.

We take time to explain how the market works with each client. We want you to understand this concept and feel comfortable with your purchase.

Each account is unique. There is no one size fits all solution.

There are great opportunities for savings in the business market.

Know the facts!!!!

Look to ask the right questions.

Let HBS be your eyes and ears….

While you continue to do what you do best….

Run your day to day business.

To learn more about deregulated energy opportunitiews for your business email george@hbsadvantage.com

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

Trade group looks to revise “price-to-compare” system that helps customers make informed choices about independent power suppliers
 
By Tom Johnson, January 28 in Energy & Environment |
With residential customers finally switching electricity suppliers, a trade group representing independent power companies is hoping the state revamps billing and other procedures to make it easier for consumers to shop for a cheaper energy.
For the first time since the state broke up its electric monopolies more than a decade ago, residential customers and small commercial operations have some choices about who supplies the power to light their homes and businesses.

Because of a steep drop in natural gas prices and the way the state buys electricity, independent power suppliers have an opportunity to undercut the price that public utilities offer customers.

“The big story on the retail electricity side has been the emergence of residential and small commercial markets,” agreed Jay Kooper, New Jersey state chair of the Retail Energy Suppliers Association, a trade group representing so-called Third-Party Suppliers (TPS).

Falling Prices

Until natural gas prices fell, more than 99 percent of residential customers elected to stay with their incumbent electric utility to buy their power, a fact that generated criticism of the state’s deregulation law. Other power suppliers found it hard to beat the price of the incumbents, in part because fuel costs had been rising and the state mitigated those spikes by buying power in chunks over three years, which tended to moderate those increases.

But when natural gas prices began falling more than a year ago, suppliers could undercut the price offered by the state, with some offering price discounts of up to 15 percent on the supply portion of customers’ bills. Nearly 100,000 customers have switched as of November, according to the most recent data compiled by the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU).

With customers looking around for options, the big question for third-party suppliers is how do they sustain the business, especially if natural gas prices begin rising.

To Kooper, the answer is to revamp the state’s policies in two key areas: how to deal with customers who fall behind in their bills and owe the third-party suppliers money and the so-called price-to-compare, a mechanism set up by the state to help customers shop for new suppliers.

“We need to dive into the nuts and bolts of the retail market to keep it sustainable for the long term,” Kooper said, noting the changes his group is seeking have already been adopted in other states with deregulated energy markets.

Gaining Momentum

Board of Public Utilities President Lee Solomon, who ordered the stakeholder hearings on the issue, said he is trying to take advantage of the momentum created by new suppliers coming into the market and make it easier for them to compete with the incumbents.

Without changes, Kooper said the suppliers will be subject to a “boom and bust” cycle when natural gas prices rise as they most inevitably will. What the suppliers are seeking is a level playing field to compete with the utilities, he said.

Along those lines, the group is advocating requiring the utilities to purchase the suppliers’ account receivables, or unpaid customer bills. Kooper argued such a change would be fair because utilities are already are protected from uncollected bills by a surcharge, which allows them to pay off those bills.

The group is also seeking to establish a uniform price-to-compare system because each of the four utilities uses a different scheme to help customers compare prices, according to Murray Bevan, counsel to the group.

“As retail markets evolve, it’s very important that price-to-compare is as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as possible,” Kooper said. “Without these mechanisms, it makes access to the smaller customers trickier and riskier.”

Hutchinson Business Solutions (HBS) has been providing deregulated energy management solutions to our business clients for over 10years.

Although we currently do not service the residential markets in deregulated states, I found it prudent to offer some insight to the many residential clients now seeking savings in the deregulated electric market.

Since New Jersey just introduced the opportunity to their residents in the spring of 2010 and Pennsylvania in January 2011, many people have jumped on the band wagon selling electric.

We get several calls daily from our clients asking questions about saving for their home electric.

The first thing that I caution them is to make sure the price that is being presented is fully loaded and contains all the factors that are included to make a price to compare analysis.

Does it include a 7% loss allowance (to deliver 100 kw of electric you must send 107 kw, for there is a 7% line loss in the delivery of the electricity)  

Does it include 7% sales tax. (PA residents 6.46% gross receipt tax)

These factors are included in the PSEG and AC Electric price to compare.

The second thing we caution clients to look for is a fixed price.

Natural gas prices are the lowest they have been in the last 3 to 4 years. Although they have spiked recently due to the winter cold, prices are still very attractive.

Thirty % (30%) of the electric generated in the US is made with natural gas. Because of this, natural gas prices serves as a strong market indicator used for electric market prices.

By choosing a fixed price, you can lock your position for a 1 or 2 year period.

There are many companies offering variable options or 4 month fixed pricing and variable pricing for the remainder of the contract. I do not feel comfortable stating that this presents a good opportunity for savings at this time.

Variable pricing does not lock your position and leaves the pricing upto the whim of the market, therefore this is a more riskier decision at this time.

Proceed with caution and make sure to get all the facts before choosing a deregulated residential electric provider.

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com 

 
Posted on Sun, Jan. 16, 2011

By Andrew Maykuth

Inquirer Staff Writer

Pearl Rosenbloom and her neighbors in South Jersey have been getting lots of sales calls lately encouraging them to switch from Public Service Electric & Gas Co. to alternative power suppliers.

The pitches are often long on enthusiasm, but short on facts.

“When you ask for details, they just say, ‘You’re going to save money!’ ” Rosenbloom said.

The Burlington County resident looks longingly across the Delaware River, where Peco Energy Co. customers are rapidly moving into a market-rate environment.

Pennsylvania residential customers have access to a wealth of comparative information on rates assembled by the Public Utility Commission or the state Office of the Consumer Advocate.

But in New Jersey, where suppliers are offering residential discounts of 12 percent and more, consumers are largely on their own when it comes to assessing the data.

“We don’t know what to do,” Rosenbloom said.

J. Gregory Reinert, the communications director of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, said there were too many offerings for Garden State regulators to manage the data on behalf of customers.

“We do not provide comparison data of third-party suppliers or utilities,” he said.

“Customers need to do comparison shopping by either calling or visiting the websites of each company to review the tariffs or promotions, and make their own comparisons and decisions,” Reinert said.

New Jersey’s approach stands in contrast to the model states lauded in a recent industry study of electricity deregulation. Advocates of market rates say competition helps suppress electrical costs by encouraging more efficiency and conservation.

Nat Treadway, the managing director of a Houston firm that conducts an annual assessment of restructured markets, in December singled out Pennsylvania’s system for praise.

In most deregulated states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, customers are free to choose the company that generates their electricity, which makes up the biggest part of their bill. Traditional utilities, such as PSE&G and Peco, are solely distributors of power and do not make money off power generation – even on the electricity they buy on behalf of customers who do not switch.

Treadway, managing partner of the Distributed Energy Financial Group, said the best markets for encouraging electrical choice were in Texas and New York.

By contrast, Treadway called New Jersey’s restructured residential market “marginal.”

Ronald M. Cerniglia, director of governmental and regulator affairs for Direct Energy Services L.L.C., a large electricity marketer operating in several states, called New Jersey’s marketplace “suboptimal.”

He said the best competitive markets set up rules that encourage alternative suppliers to do business while still providing traditional consumer protections.

Regulators in thriving markets also make efforts to educate customers. One way is to maintain websites with neutral cost comparisons.

The Pennsylvania PUC’s papowerswitch.com lists most current suppliers, and some of their offerings. The Texas and New York utility commissions operate sophisticated websites that allow consumers to search for competitive offers by zip code: powertochoose.org and newyorkpowertochoose.com.

The New Jersey BPU rolled out a website for power-shopping after it opened electricity markets to competition in 1999, part of a $13.5 million promotional effort.

But New Jersey’s rates were still rigidly structured, and residential suppliers stayed away. The BPU’s website was abandoned in 2003 and the domain name was taken over by a Spanish pornography site, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Only in the last year have alternative suppliers planted their flags in New Jersey’s residential markets. As of November, 98,700 customers out of New Jersey’s 3.3 million households had switched to alternative suppliers, up from a mere 213 households in 2009.

By comparison, Peco Energy Co. says 96,000 of its residential customers have switched suppliers, most in the two weeks since rate caps were lifted Jan. 1.

The BPU provides the names of suppliers on its website, but the list appears to be out of date. South Jersey Energy Co. is listed as a residential electrical supplier even though it has been “out of residential for a number of years,” according to Joanne Brigandi, a company spokeswoman.

And in some cases, it is difficult for New Jersey customers to locate even the most basic information from which they can make an informed choice.

PSE&G’s basic-generation service – the price to compare – is listed as 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour on some alternative suppliers’ websites.

PSE&G spokeswoman Karen A. Johnson confirmed Friday that the utility’s price to compare is 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Several suppliers are offering discounts below either price. They are listed above.

Our Perspective:

Hutchinson Business Solutions has been providing deregulated energy management solutions to our business clients for over 10years. Although we currently do not serve the residential markets in deregulated states, I found it prudent to offer some insight to the many residential clients now seeking savings in the deregulated electric market.

Since NewJersey just introduced the opportunity to their residents in the spring of 2010 and Pennsylvania in January 2011, many people have jumped on the band wagon selling electric. 

We get several calls daily from 0ur clients asking questions about saving for their home electric. The first thing that I caution them is to make sure the price that is being presnted is fully loaded and contains all the factors that are included to make a cost to compare analysis. Does it include a 7% loss allowance (to deliver 100 kw of electric you must send 107 kw for there is a 7% is line loss in the delivery of the electricity)  and 7% sales tax. These factors are included in the PSEG and AC Electric price to compare.

The second thing we caution clients to look for is a fixed price. Natural gas prices are the lowest they have been in the last 3 to 4 years. Although they have spiked recently due to the winter cold, prices are still very attractive. Thirty % (30%) of the electric generated in the US is made with natural gas. Because of this, natural gas prices serve as a stong indicator used for electric market prices. By choosing a fixed price, you can lock your position for a 1 or 2 year period.

Variable pricing does not provide this opportunity and is therefore a more riskier decision at this time.

Proceed with caution and make sure to get all the facts before choosing a deregulated residential electric provider.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/business/20110116_New_Jersey_consumers_perplexed_by_elecric-power_options.html?viewAll=y#ixzz1BFl4JZXL
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