Direct Energy Review: An Accessible Provider With Plenty of Options

A strong energy contender working in a number of places, but not always working perfectly.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/ Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
6 min read
A cell phone displaying a Direct Energy Logo
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Direct Energy was founded in Toronto in 1986 but is now a subsidiary of international giant NRG Energy and is based in Houston. The company claims to supply nearly 4 million residential and business customers with electricity, natural gas and home efficiency services. It currently operates as an energy supplier in a number of deregulated markets across the eastern US and Alberta, Canada. 

Deregulated energy markets result when utilities and other energy producers opt to make the energy they generate available on a wholesale energy market. Suppliers buy off the market and resell to you at retail rates. This all happens on paper via contracts and financial transactions -- local utilities still physically generate and deliver energy to people within their geographical footprint, but who those people pay for that energy is now up to them. 

Direct Energy offers a wide variety of different fixed price contracts for terms as short as month-to-month all the way up to five years. It's also possible to sign up for a green energy plan in which the company will offset up to 100% of your energy consumption with renewable energy certificates that are tied to energy produced by a sustainable source like wind, solar or hydropower. 

The company also offers other novel incentives, like plans that include free energy on nights or weekends (or both), or an Amazon Prime subscription. 

Direct Energy is among the largest and most financially stable of an emerging crop of energy suppliers in deregulated markets, thanks to its ties to NRG. 

That said, it has a "D" rating with the Better Business Bureau backed up by dozens of recent one-star reviews, many of which seem to relate to billing issues. We don't place a lot of stock in online reviews, but there seems to be a clear and consistent pattern of problems. 

As always, before entering into any agreement, be sure to do your own research, due diligence, and don't be afraid to ask sales representatives what the company has done to address all the problems you've read about online. 

Pros and cons of Direct Energy

  • Operates over a large geography with a strong corporate foundation

  • Offers a number of renewable energy plans

  • Offers a wide range of contract terms

  • Incentives include free nights, weekends and Amazon Prime subscription

  • Also sells home repair and maintenance plans

  • Concerning reputation and reviews online

  • Look out for late payment fees

  • Options can be difficult to navigate on the website

  • Source of energy for RECs not disclosed

What states and provinces does Direct Energy operate in?

Plan typeService areas


Alberta (Canada), Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts,

Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, D.C.

Natural Gas

Alberta (Canada), Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania 

Renewable energy

Alberta (Canada), Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts,

Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, D.C. 

Direct Energy: Types of plans offered 

Fixed rate plans: Direct Energy offers mostly fixed rate plans for electricity and natural gas, with up to 100% renewable energy plans also offered in many states. You can choose the contract length you want (up to three years in some markets) and for that period you'll be guaranteed energy at a set rate. At the end of the term, the rate will update to the current market rate if you opt to renew. This could be a good option if you're satisfied with the current cost of energy and don't think it will drop significantly in the near term, or if you just like knowing what you'll be paying for energy each month. 

Variable rate plans: Variable rate plans are essentially like paying market rate for energy, with prices that will fluctuate. Direct Energy only offers this option in Alberta and Texas. It could be a good choice if you expect energy prices to go down in the near future. 

Bundled plans: Sometimes energy suppliers will bundle electricity and natural gas service in a single plan for additional savings. Direct Energy currently only offers this option in Alberta. 

Renewable energy plans: Direct Energy offers "green energy" plans or add-ons supported by "Renewable Energy Certificates that are purchased and retired in an amount sufficient to match your annual consumption." 

Direct Energy says the RECs are sourced from "eligible renewable energy resources like biomass, hydro, solar or wind." This means it isn't directly producing renewable energy itself, but rather buying certificates tied to production from green producers to offset the energy its customers use. It's a potential option if you want to support renewable energy development on your monthly bill. 

Direct Energy: Types of rates and plans available  

Electricity plans

Plan typePlan type descriptionContract lengthsStates/provinces available

Fixed rate plan

Fixed-rate plans have a set price per kilowatt-hour of monthly electricity consumption for a certain duration of months

Month-to-month, 9 months, 10 months, 11 months, 12 months, 13 months, 14 months, 15 months, 16 months, 18 months, 24 months, 27 months, 36 months (not all plans available in all markets)


Variable rate plan

Rates per kilowatt-hour are based on the fluctuating energy market

Month-to-month in Texas; 1 year or 3 years in Alberta


Natural gas plans 

Plan typePlan type descriptionContract lengthsStates/provinces available

Fixed rate plan

Rates per therm are fixed for a certain duration of months. 

4 months, 5 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months (not all plans available in all markets)


Variable rate plan

Rates per therm are based on the fluctuating energy market.

1 year, 3 year, 5 year


Renewable energy plans

Plan typePlan type descriptionContract lengthsStates/provinces available

Simply Green and similar 100% renewable energy plans

Direct Energy purchases renewable energy certificates tied to solar, wind, hydro or biomass-based energy production projects.

Month-to-month, 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, 24 months, 27 months, 36 months, 5 years

(not all plans available in all markets)


Bundled plans 

Plan typePlan type descriptionContract lengthsProvinces available

Gas and electric dual fuel plan 

Fixed or variable rate plans available with optional renewable energy add-ons

1 year, 3 years


Other services offered by Direct Energy

Whole home protection maintenance and repair plans

A la carte options to keep up a home's HVAC, electrical, appliances, plumbing, water and sewer.

Why it's important to check the fine print

When shopping on Direct Energy's website, each plan includes links to something like "plan documents," "plan details," "terms of service" or the more cryptic "EFL" for electricity facts label. Be sure to actually read the fine print on these documents, including some specific details:

  • Average price per kWh.
  • Contract duration.
  • Contact information.
  • Cancellation or early termination fees.
  • Electricity usage credits.
  • Moving or transfer fees.
  • Late payment fees.
  • Potential usage penalty charges.
  • Auto bill pay discount requirements.
  • Time of use rates or escalators.
  • Utility delivery charges.
  • Renewable energy percentage.
  • Renewal terms.
  • Utility delivery charges.

Confusion over these items surfaces repeatedly in online reviews and complaints about the company. Being knowledgeable about this information before signing a contract can prevent potential misunderstanding and make you better prepared to advocate for yourself should problems arise. 

Bottom line: Is Direct Energy a good choice?

Direct Energy and its parent company NRG likely aren't going anywhere anytime soon. This strong foundation makes them worthy of a closer look as you shop for energy, as it provides leverage for the company to offer a number of options across multiple markets. 

However, as we all know from living on Earth in 2023, working with larger companies offering attractive terms can frequently be offset by shortcomings in the customer service department. A concerning number of Direct Energy customers report negative experiences online. Be diligent in your research and grill representatives about how they're working to do better. 

How do I sign up for Direct Energy? 

You can enroll in a Direct Energy plan by entering your ZIP code into the Choose Energy marketplace. Here you can shop and compare Direct Energy to other providers and plans available in your area. 

You can enroll in most plans online via chooseenergy.com or through a Choose Energy telephone representative. Choose Energy is a CNET partner site, which, like CNET, is owned by Red Ventures.