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.

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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

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What’s Up?

March 24, 2011

I say potato.

You say patato.

The difference may be just an inflection

Or the pronunciation of the word

(in this case it was my spelling, so you get the gist)

However, we all know what we are discussing.

Shame that the same thing cannot be said

About the word…….

Deregulation……

We should all know what we are discussing

We should all be on the same page…..

But there are so many stories……

Each one providing the best deal……..

A once in a lifetime offer……

Get in on the ground floor…….

What is going on????

With electric prices being at a 7 year low

We are finding, that everyone and their brothers,

Are now selling energy………

I get calls at my office almost….. everyday

Would like to switch electric providers?

How would you like to earn some extra cash?

The market is being inundated.

I am surprised Comcast and Verizon are not selling energy?

HBS has been selling energy to commercial clients for over 10 years

I would like to take a few moments to add our perspective.

Define what we see as the opportunity.

Educate our clients and friends.

Business

 

 

  • The deregulated electric market price is closely tied to natural gas pricing.

 

  •  
    • Thirty ( 30%) of the electric generated in the US is made with natural gas. Therefore, natural gas is a good indicator of the market prices.

 

  • Natural gas market prices are the lowest they have been in the last 4 years.

 

  •  
    • As a result, the deregulated market price of electric has also dropped.

 

  • Many experts think that we may have hit the floor on natural gas prices back at the end of October 2010.

 

  •  
    • The market has gone up and down several times since then, but it has never gone back to the low point recorded on October 25th, 2010.

 

This information indicates that clients should be looking to lock in or fix the price of electric with a 3rd party deregulated provider for a minimum of 1 year…… possibly 2 years.

We have actually seen instances where the 2 year fixed price is more competitive and offers more savings.

Each account is unique. Prices are all based on demand factors.

Are you a seasonal account?

(Highest usages during summer months)

Do you use most of your energy during the day?

(On Peak….when prices are higher)

Or do you have mixed usage?

(On Peak and Off Peak)

All these factors play into defining the deregulated market rate for your account.

Do you have annual usage demands

vs seasonal usage demands……

Your fixed rate will be lower.

(your demand usage is being spread out over the entire year)

Is your usage a mixed between on peak usages and off peak usages

vs only using power during the day,

when rates are the highest

Then your rates will be lower.

Each provider has their sweet spot. A client profile, they are most competitive with in that market.

HBS is an independent energy management consultant. Thru our strategic partnerships, we represent all the major deregulated gas and electric providers selling energy in deregulated states.

Our expertise is the ability to properly define the market and select the provider(s) who will bring the most competitive fixed rate, offering the best opportunity for savings to our clients.

What about Variable rates?

There are many companies now offering variable rates for electric.

Month to month contracts….offering savings of around 10%.

If the market prices are near the bottom,

Why would it not be in the clients’ best interest to lock in a fixed rate instead of floating with a variable rate?

As the summer season starts,

Market rates will also go up,

Due to summer demand.

So will those variable rates!!!!

It only makes sense to lock in on a fixed price,

if the market presents the opportunity.

In the deregulated energy market,

You are dealing with a commodity.

Timing is everything.

Let HBS be your eyes and ears.

Next week, we will outline using an independent broker vs buying online. Also, what does it mean when you say the price is fully loaded

To learn more about deregulated opportunities for your company email george@hbsadvanatge.com  

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

Best Time

February 14, 2011

When is the best time to buy energy in the deregulated market?

I have heard statements from clients saying, “Let’s wait to July or August and then we’ll look at it.”

This seems to be a common misconception. When buying a commodity, we are dealing with a fluid market.

Prices are constantly changing.

During the last 4 years, we have seen the Nymex go from a high of $13.105 in July 2008 to a low of $2.843 in September of 2009.

What is the Nymex?

The current price of natural gas out of the ground in the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of Louisiana.

When quoting fixed natural gas prices we must add the basis cost, which is the cost of transporting natural gas from the shores of Louisiana to the gate of the local provider (PSEG, SJ Gas, PGW, Peco  etc).

The Nymex is normally used as a gauge to determine where the natural gas and electric markets are at any given point of the day.

Nymex is up, means that gas and electric prices will be increasing

Conversely,

Nymex is down, means that gas and electric prices will be dropping.

This is not necessarily a proportional shift but it is a good indicator.

I went back over those 4 years and looked to see when the Nymex was at its’ highest and lowest points.

Year        Average Cost        Lowest   Month   Highest   Month

2007       $6.376 dth            $5.43      Sept        $7.558    April

2008       $8.437 dth            $6.469   Nov        $13.105   July

2009       $3.475 dth            $2.843     Sept      $6.136     Jan

2010       $3.908 dth            $3.292     Nov       $5.814     Jan

Our goal at HBS is to properly monitor the market swings and to communicate with our clients when the opportunities present the best value.

Dealing with a utility is not like dealing with other contracts in business.

You do not have to wait for the contract to expire.

There is no guarantee that the best opportunity will be available.

As of this writing the Nymex is at $3.93 and it is only mid-February.

Could the market go lower?

Yes..

But there is more of an upside risk!

Prices could easily go higher.

 

How much lower will the market go?

The floor is not determined until it passes

And then it may be too late.

When dealing with a commodity….

Timing is everything!

I often say that a client who buys deregulated utilities is like a person who shops at Syms.

“An educated consumer is our best customer.”

HBS strives to educate our clients and keep them informed,

Providing…

Smart Solutions for Smart Business

If you would like to know more about deregulated utilities and your business call 856-857-1230 or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Just the Facts!!!

July 16, 2010

With the current electric market prices being very desirable, deregulation has hit full stride in New Jersey.

If you are a business spending over $3000 a month on electric, you will find real savings by shopping your account with one of the 8 to 10 deregulated providers selling electric in NJ. Hutchinson Business Solutions is an independent energy management consultant who represents all of the major deregulated providers selling electric in NJ. We have been bring deregulated savings to our clients for over 10 years.

 If you are not currently participating in the deregulated savings opportunity, the timing could not be better.

 Just a word of precaution!

Due to the current market growth there are many new faces showing up hawking the merits. Be sure to know all the facts before making any decision.

First, the price to compare from your local provider includes sales tax. Should you be taking to a consultant or broker, ask if the price is fully loaded. ie: does it include the 7% loss allowance (to deliver 100,000 kwh of electric, the providers must actually send 107,000 kwh, for there is a 7% loss in transmission), also does it include 7% sales tax.

Both these components are included in the local provider price to compare.

We see many companies that fail to include these items in their presentation and therefore you are not comparing apples to apples. There are times we found that when you actually add these 2 factors, the price is higher than what you are currently paying.

Know the facts.

Ask the right questions.

There are opportunities to save from 10% to 25% in the deregulated electric market depending on your usage patterns

Remember… The local provider buys electric on the wholesale market and then bills their customers retails pricing. HBS puts their clients in the wholesale position.

To learn more email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230.

Visit s on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

By Chrysa Smith

It’s been said that choice is the ultimate luxury. Since 1999, New Jersey businesses and residents have had the luxury of choosing which utility company from which to purchase gas, electricity, and heating fuel; but with choice often comes challenge. Along with their new options and the predicted benefits of a more competitive marketplace, New Jersey residents have also had to deal with the changes and questions raised by the state government’s deregulation of energy providers.

The Balance of Power

In 1999, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU)—the governing body for electric, oil and natural gas services—introduced a bill to deregulate the state’s energy industry for residential customers. (New Jersey’s commercial energy market had been opened up earlier in what some say was an attempt to keep local corporations happy and committed to staying put.)

The goal of the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act (EDECA) was to enable New Jersey energy consumers to shop around and chose the energy provider that best suited their budget and service requirements. The free-market rationale hinged on the prediction that enough healthy competition between providers would keep prices down while offering better service and reliability to customers. Under the auspices of the federal Department of Energy, New Jersey took measures to safeguard free market competition for electricity and gas, including the requirement for the NJBPU to “unplug” power stations with higher costs than other available energy sources.

// //

According to Betty Kennedy, public relations coordinator for Conectiv Power Delivery, an independent utility provider based in Carney’s Point, New Jersey. “Up till 1999, when the state voted to restructure the energy industry, each company had a specific service area.”

Conectiv—which services eight counties in southern New Jersey—claims that the deregulation has reduced their customer’s rates by 10.2 percent, saving them a cumulative $290 million during the years from 1999 to 2003.

But the story is a bit more complex. Conectiv, and the states other 21 licensed electric suppliers and 29 licensed natural gas suppliers are, as their names indicate, suppliers. They provide the hardware—the lines and cables—and once those are in place, they also provide the power that flows to New Jersey commercial and residential customers. That power may have been purchased from companies several states away, or it could come from oil, coal or renewable energy sources. Energy may even be bought and sold much like the stocks in an investment portfolio. If it’s important for a customer to know where the cool flow from their central air system comes from, or the juice that runs the building elevator, post-deregulation, that customer now has a voice.

According to Terry Moran, manager of Retail Choice for Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) in Newark, New Jersey’s largest energy provider, “Since the transition period for New Jersey, the largest change is that we no longer own generation. We are now a pipes-and-wires company.”

Enter the ESCOs

Though the playing field has changed somewhat, the delivery companies—called Energy Service Companies, or ESCOs – have remained essentially the same. Since deregulation, it’s the transmission that has changed. Out-of-area transmission companies, called third-party suppliers, are now in competition with area companies who once dominated their own market.

“The restructuring act has allowed New Jersey to move forward to look for better prices in the state,” says Kennedy. “Our customers pay less than they did in ’99.” This has been accomplished, thanks in part to the annual Basic Generation Service, or BGS, auction. Each February, according to PSE&G spokesperson Karen Johnson, transmission companies gather together to offer energy packages to service providers. Suppliers can pick up an energy contract for a year or two, or more at wholesale auction.

// //

“For the customers that have chosen to stay with [us],” says Johnson, “we secure the power through the annual energy auction that allows them to buy in a wholesale [market], where prices are competitive. PSE&G is the utility that is part of the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) parent company, who also owns PSEG Power—the unregulated generation side.”

And, says Kennedy, much like commodities of all kinds, the buying can be ‘locked in’ at a specific rate—called fixed pricing—or float with the market value through its natural cycle of ups and downs—called variable pricing.

Not a Flawless System

While the provision of greater choice and potentially lower costs seems appealing, the program has not been without its problems. According to a report published by The New Jersey Public Interest Research Group’s Citizen Lobby and Law & Policy Center in Trenton, “New Jersey pays 50 percent more than the national average for our electricity. And energy providers, for the most part, are offering the same old fossil-fuel and nuclear-generated electricity.” For the programs first four years, the rates were frozen for electric utilities, and some customers actually saw savings of 10 percent on their electric bills. Yet now, as pricing caps come off kilowatt rates, it remains to be seen what the full affect will be.

“One of the biggest fallacies of deregulation,” says Janet Garofalow, assistant vice president and manager of sales and marketing for Castle Power LLC—a Harrison, New York-based fuel oil and natural gas service provider with a satellite office in Englewood—”is that we can’t guarantee that we can save our customers money in comparison to the utility commodity cost when they fix a price at a certain time. We can’t predict what the market will do going forward.”

Garofalow goes on to explain that to a large extent, the market is controlled by the weather. “In the winter, one reason for gas prices rising is the cost of transportation for the gas, due to increased demand. In the winter of 2002, when we never wore a winter coat, pricing came down.” To a large extent, the energy market is a gamble in commodities futures—where knowledge of the market and good planning come into play.

Maneuvering Through the Maze

One of the biggest attractions to third-party energy suppliers has been the advent of aggregation. And it may just be one of the largest benefits to multiple dwelling communities sharing real estate management companies. According to Alyssa Weinberger, director of regulatory affairs for Hess Energy Marketing in Woodbridge, “Buying bulk would be advantageous. With an aggregation of individual customers into larger groups, you can get better deals.”

// //

Hess—along with several other suppliers who deal with commercial and industrial customers—have done just this for multiple dwelling communities, and even area school districts, in order to reduce costs. Management companies should be aware of these and other options for energy conservation under current energy systems.

Most ESCOs and third party suppliers will tell you that their marketing efforts have not been anything like those of the deregulated phone companies, and that the resulting switching of suppliers—at least on the residential side—has been marginal. Right now, the BPU estimates that third party suppliers represent less than six percent of service to gas customers and fewer than 3.5 percent for electric supply switchers.

According to Johnson, PSE&G currently has 1.6 million gas customers and two million electric customers. “Some have both gas and electric,” says Johnson. “We serve about 75 percent of the state’s population on a north-south diagonal that follows the New Jersey Turnpike.”

“The percentage of customers who have changed is not large,” adds Moran. “On the electric side, most of those who have switched have been the largest customers. We roughly have about 18 percent of our [megawatt] load switched. For gas, we have roughly 30,000 customers who have switched to third party suppliers.”

If you think your association might benefit from joining that percentage, all it takes to make a change is a phone call and a signed contract—which some suppliers say can be done by a board member. Yet, in this transition period, and in the age of all too common legal proceedings, having the input of an informed accountant and an attorney review would be prudent. Especially in the case of buying power for entire communities, the stakes are high, contracts are involved and costs of litigation even greater.

“You need a service provider who you can go to and ask questions,” Garofalow adds, “Although [the energy business] isn’t rocket science, it is complex.” Before your board even thinks of making any changes in your utility provider, it makes sense to be sure that the people responsible for the purchase of energy understand the terms, the bills and the contracts.

According to Moran, “Billing can be done in a few different ways. For Basic Generation Services (BGS), all charges can be contained in one utility bill. Third party suppliers have a variety of options that are set forth in their contracts.”

Like a fixed mortgage, a fixed rate is fairly straightforward, and can be budgeted for accordingly. For a variable rate, it helps to know the index to which the rate is tied. According to Weinberger, “Some large customers have been put on hourly pricing versus a fixed rate—the advantage being that you pay for what you really use, with the ability to see where spikes are.”

Eric Hartsfield, a spokesperson for the NJBPU, indicates there are many options. “In the case of a condo, you may have one company providing service for the common/general areas, while another may provide service to the individual unit owners.”

Other Considerations

It also helps to be informed about the latest programs from providers that may benefit your community down the road.

“We recommend that dual-fuel boilers be put in if possible and if it makes economic sense to the customer,” says Garofalow—providing the option of burning natural gas or alternate fuel as the state of the market may dictate. Programs like the New Jersey Clean Energy Program (www.njcleanenergy.com) offer multiple promotions that provide cash incentives for changing systems that are cleaner or more efficient. So, when a community looks at their energy costs, they might consider replacement time for heat pumps, air conditioning systems and boilers in addition to their bills. If timing is right, there could be savings all around.

Information is out there, however, in the form of conferences, customer awareness programs and directly from the BPU (www.bpu.state.nj.us). The more informed the management company, condo or co-op board, the easier it will be to maneuver through this kilowatt maze without it becoming a drain on an association’s time and budget.

To find out more about saving opportunities in the NJ deregulated utility market email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230.

Chrysa Smith is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The New Jersey Cooperator.

Deregulation FAQ.

May 24, 2010

As reported in NJ Electricity Review

New Jersey Electricity Review

Your Current Electric Provider
Since New Jersey restructured its electricity market, the incumbent providers (PSEG, JCPL, Atlantic City Electric (Conectiv), Rockland Electric) are now solely in the business of managing the lines and wires portion of your electricity service. They are not in the business of offering competitive supply prices. However, they have been given the responsibility to provide high default rates for those business consumers who have not chosen a competitive supplier.
 
Why should I get off of the Default Rate?

There is a misconception in New Jersey that your current provider will be upset if you choose another company to supply your energy. This could not be more untrue. The incumbent providers (PSEG, JCPL, ACE, Rockland) are regulated lines and wires companies whose revenues and profit margins are managed by the state. They do not receive profits for the supply portion of the bill and would rather see all of their customers receive supply service from alternative providers so that they can focus on the reliability and customer service of the power lines.

However, because deregulation is a fairly new concept, the New Jersey State Public Commission Board has mandated that the incumbent providers provide a default service for those customers who are slow to choose a competitive supplier. Due to recent market conditions, the fixed rates that are available in the competitive market are significantly lower than the high default rates, by as much as 15-30% .

 
What Does Deregulation Mean to Me?The deregulated energy market in New Jersey provides the opportunity for all businesses to experience huge savings in their energy spending. The hurdle is knowing when and how to see these savings. Fixed generation rates, bandwidth limitations, ancillary charges, congestion fees, and blend-and-extend price adjustment clauses are just a few elements worth understanding to realize your potential savings.
 
How Can I Save Money?In order to see the maximum savings it is essential to work with a firm who represents you, not the provider, and who are experts in all deregulated energy markets, electricity contract negotiations, and the natural gas market..

By representing your company or organization we will force several providers to compete for your business resulting in lower rates and more favorable contract concessions. We will provide you with a full savings analysis that will compare your current default rate versus the low fixed rates we are able to find. Once the contract is executed we will continue to monitor the market on your behalf and look for opportunities to renegotiate and lower the rate even further.

 

Should you like to know more about opportunities to save in the NJ deregulated natural gas and electric market email george@hbsadvantage.com