The Empire State offers energy plans in a deregulated energy market; here's why that can be a good thing for you and how to choose a plan.
Kimanzi Constable is a CNET contributor who writes about energy, personal finance, broadband, and entrepreneurship. He is the author of four books and a freelance writer whose articles have been published in Fortune, AskMen, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Insider, SUCCESS Magazine, Parents, Travel & Leisure, NBC, CBS, Black Enterprise, and 80 other publications and magazines. He's a global traveler who has been to 85 countries and counting. Keep up with his writing at kconstable.com
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If you live in New York, you have the power to choose your energy supplier.
It's called energy deregulation -- and New York is one of the 18 states that's adopted it. A deregulated energy market allows residents to choose their energy provider and shop between electric rate plans.
"Deregulation in New York's energy market allows consumers to choose who supplies their energy, whether electricity or natural gas, offering them potentially more competitive rates and service options," said Brad Tito, Director of Community Energy at PowerMarket.
We'll help you find the best electricity rates in your area
"Deregulation promotes competition and drives these energy suppliers to innovate. And the hope is that these third-party suppliers provide better services to retain and attract customers."
Here's what you need to know about deregulation in New York, how to navigate shopping for a new plan provider, what steps to take and how to select the best energy plan.
We'll help you find the best electricity rates in your area
Shop for electricity in New York
The table below shows the current price to compare -- the standard rate available from your utility company -- and the price range of options available through Choose Energy, which is owned by the same parent company as CNET.
All rates displayed are accurate as of July 14, 2023, for the ZIP codes listed for each utility.
CNET staff regularly update these rates but they may have changed since the last update. For the most current rate information in your area, please enter your ZIP code at choosenergy.com. These rates only represent the supply charges, not the utility's delivery charges or any taxes.
A deregulated energy market means that competitors, other than utility companies, can buy and sell electricity by permitting market participants to invest in power plants, transmission lines and generators. These providers can then sell electricity, gas, solar and other renewable energy to retail customers in the deregulated markets.
New York state residents experienced the highest energy rates in the US in the 1990s. Aging energy infrastructure and outdated equipment caused high rates for many states at the time.
Previously, local energy utility companies in the US had a monopoly. They controlled the power and sold it directly to consumers without competition. The New York Public Service Commission passed Competitive Opportunities Case legislation in 1996 to open the residential energy markets to competition.
This deregulation meant independent power producers could enter the New York energy market and produce and sell electricity -- alongside local utilities. The competition can help lower prices as various providers compete to earn a customer's business. The consumer has a choice to either choose their own energy supplier or let the utility choose for them.
There are subsections within New York that are an exception and are not deregulated. The best way to know if your home resides in a deregulated utility area is to enter your zip code in the New York state Public Utilities Commission supplier comparison site: NYS Power to Choose.
In deregulated markets, the utility is the company which owns, manages and maintains energy infrastructure such as energy lines, wires, poles and transformers that deliver electricity and gas to homes and commercial buildings. The New York utility providers are responsible for checking the meters, restoring power to areas after severe weather and emergencies. It also fixes gas leaks.
The electric supplier or "providers" are the competitive energy suppliers or companies that sell electricity or gas services to customers. The electricity supplier buys electricity or gas from power generators, then you can buy it from the electricity provider of your choice.
People in New York's deregulated market can choose from several different suppliers. These companies compete for business.
While you don't have a choice of utility company, you can choose a supplier or provider. In New York, here are the utility companies operating throughout the state. You're assigned one of these utilities based on where you live.
The state of New York Department of Public Service refers to eligible energy retailers as ESCOs or Energy Services Company. In New York, each ESCO must go through a screening process before it can become an eligible provider in the state.
What types of electricity plans are offered in New York?
On your energy bill, there are costs from the utility to pay for the transmission and maintenance of the infrastructure. Then, there is the cost of the supply of your electricity. Each state government regulates the utility cost. But the cost of the supply is where your choice comes into play.
There are three energy plan types to choose from, which can help control the supply portion of your energy bill.
A fixed-rate plan: In a fixed-rate plan, you're provided certain price protections for the duration of your contract with the energy provider.
A variable-rate plan: In a variable-rate plan, the rate you'll pay fluctuates with the energy market and you'll be charged a different amount from month to month. A variable-rate plan often doesn't need a contract.
Renewable plans: With a renewable energy plan you're choosing a plan that sources its energy from renewable resources such as hydro, wind or solar power.
"Using clean, renewable energy aligns with many people's values, and they can seek out an alternative electricity supplier to access this kind of green energy which could reduce their carbon footprint," said Tito.
How do you find the best electricity rates in New York?
The New York PUC website is one of the best places to check suppliers using its NYS Power to Choose zip search tool. You can choose from electricity, gas and renewable energy rates.
You can also shop and compare rates and companies through CNET's partner site ChooseEnergy.com, which, like CNET, is owned by Red Ventures.
What to look for when choosing an electricity plan in New York
When choosing an electricity plan in New York, several factors must be considered. Here are some tips and advice to help you navigate the choices:
Compare electricity plans: Take the time to compare different electricity plans from multiple suppliers. Look beyond the price and consider contract terms, customer reviews, renewable energy options and additional features.
Read electricity facts label or terms of service: The EFL or TOS provides essential details about the electricity plan, including the price per kilowatt-hour, contract length, usage tiers and potential additional fees. Carefully review the EFL for each plan you're considering so that hidden fees or charges do not blindside you.
Evaluate your energy needs: Assess your energy consumption habits to determine if you're a light or heavy electricity user. A fixed-rate long-term plan might work best for heavy electricity users, while a variable-rate or time-of-use plan might benefit users who don't use too much electricity.
Consider green energy options: If supporting renewable energy options is essential to you, then explore green energy plans. Look for suppliers that generate electricity from renewable sources like solar or wind.
How to make the switch in New York
For residential customers switching to a new electricity provider, the process is quite streamlined and can be initiated online, over the phone or through a consultant or agent, who facilitates the process. Here's an outline of how the process is usually executed:
Decide on your preferred method of switching: Identify whether you want to switch your electricity provider online, over the phone or through a consultant or agent.
Open communication and negotiation: Call each supplier about their rates, terms and conditions. Compare each supplier's offers and see if there's wiggle room during the negotiation to get a better price or additional benefits.
Sign the contract with your new supplier: After you've found a deal that suits your needs, sign the contract with the new electricity provider. They will then take over the switching process.
Supplier's responsibilities: After the contract is signed, the new supplier will send a copy of the agreement to the utility company and notify you of the commencement of their service.
Understand your contract: Study the contract to ensure you're familiar with the terms, rates and conditions.
Monitor market volatility: Keep an eye on market volatility in the electricity industry. This could affect the rates and terms of your contract in the future.
Continuous assessment: Regularly assess the performance of your chosen supplier. Consider factors such as customer service, reliability and value for money. If you're not satisfied, consider switching again in the future.
Who has the cheapest electricity rates in New York?
It depends when you search, where you live and which retailers or suppliers service your location. A simple online search is enough to help most residential customers find and compare the best rates of different suppliers.
What is the best energy plan in New York?
The "best" electricity supplier is a variable and subjective determination. It depends on the customer's unique requirements, usage and the fluctuating market conditions. Some suppliers excel at servicing small residential clients, others perform well with real estate clients, while others may offer their best prices on certain days. Therefore, this decision truly depends on numerous factors and varies daily.