Compare Your Energy Choices and Electricity Rates by State
Here's a breakdown of the states where you have an energy choice and how your state's utility bills compare to the rest of the nation.
Andrew King is an award-winning journalist and copywriter from Columbus, Ohio. He has covered sports, local news, entertainment and more for The Athletic, The Columbus Dispatch, Major League Soccer, Columbus Monthly and other outlets, and writes about home energy for CNET. He's a graduate of Capital University, and recently published a non-fiction book called "Friday Night Lies: The Bishop Sycamore Story" investigating the fraudulent high school football team that became the talk of the nation.
There was a time, not so long ago, when the electricity that came to your house wasn't part of a decision-making process -- it was just there.
But now, entire regions, states and municipalities have their own options, challenges, pros and cons for different energy options. Some states are deregulated, with a consumer choice approach to their energy offerings, while others stay closer to the traditional methods. Some offer green energy options while others stick with the old fossil fuel ways.
Some experts say deregulation gives the consumer more power and choices. But will you save money if you exercise your power to choose a new retail electric provider? Joshua Basseches, an assistant professor of public policy and environmental studies at Tulane University, downplays any guarantee of savings.
"It's unclear on a systematic level whether deregulation has actually led to decreases in electricity rates, and that's because there's so many factors, including things like what's going on in Ukraine and the rate-making process," he said. "Whether it's had the effect that was promised on prices of electricity is very much up for debate."
Knowing if you should be choosing a new energy supplier may come down to how much electricity you're paying for and if you think you can save money by switching.
Here's how each state's average electric bill compares to the rest of the nation, what the average electric rates look like in each state and what you'll need to know if you decide to choose a new energy supplier.
For more information on deregulated energy rates and companies, check out CNET partner site ChooseEnergy.com, which, like CNET, is owned by Red Ventures.
Source: EIA. These figures cover only the most recent month of data available. Prices and electricity bills can vary significantly throughout the year.
Comparing average electricity bills by state
District of Columbia
Top 10 states with the highest average electricity bills
Top 10 states with the lowest electricity bills
We calculated these average electric bills by using EIA data on revenue from residential electricity sales and dividing that by the number of customers. These figures cover only the most recent month of data available. Prices and electricity bills can vary significantly throughout the year.
What to look for when choosing an electricity provider
Each region, state and even community is going to have different elements at play that residents should be aware of when shopping for electricity providers.
On a basic level, you'll want to look out for plan options that work for you -- more on that later -- pricing structure, customer satisfaction and payment options. But there are also more tricky factors to consider, like contract terms and potential scams.
In such a lucrative field, a variety of scams are out there that could trick you out of hard-earned money. Basseches recommends checking with your state's public utility commission and other government entities to get a feel for the scammers that are out there. For example, the state of Ohio has a whole web page with information on known scams and common tactics. But Basseches also recommends the old-fashioned way: talking to the people you know.
"Stick with the public utility commissions, but also talk to your neighbors," he said.
What to expect when moving to a state with deregulated energy choice
For someone new to shopping for energy in a deregulated state, everywhere is going to be different. Texas, for instance, is the poster child for deregulated energy, offering an extremely wide range of options and, at times, a confusing number of choices.
But regardless of what state you're in, Basseches' advice remains the same: Trust the entities who have a responsibility to be trustworthy, and start there.
"It should be the public utility commission that is responsible for ensuring consumers are educated, but unfortunately educating consumers does cost money," he said. "My biggest advice would be to see the public utility commission as the least biased source of information."
There is always risk when buying energy from a deregulated supplier, Basseches warns. "But the public utility commission works for the people, so they do have the most knowledge because all of these companies have to register with them and things like that," he said. "Get to know your public utility commission, read things carefully and just know that everyone's vying for your business."
Finding the best electricity rates
It may seem like a daunting process, but you can find savings and higher satisfaction from your energy provider with a bit of homework.
Shopping for an energy provider isn't just about finding the absolute lowest rate. You'll want to avoid scams and be sure to pay close attention to your electronic facts label or terms of service, where public utility commissions require disclosure of things like price per kWh of electricity, base charges, delivery charges, early termination fees and more. All of these factors can add up, and should be taken into account during your research.
5 types of energy plans
Depending on company, location and a variety of other factors, customers may be able to sign up for several different types of energy plan in a deregulated market, each with their own pros and cons.
Fixed-rate plan: In a fixed-rate plan, an energy supplier charges a consistent rate per unit of energy over a specified contract term. Regardless of changes in the energy market, your rate remains constant, providing stability and predictability that can help budgeting and planning.
Variable-rate plan: A variable-rate plan does not lock you into a long-term contract or a fixed rate, meaning you get to take advantage of prices falling. But your rate will fluctuate based on market conditions or the supplier's pricing policies, which means you could be in for high prices during times of increased costs. And while prices can go up or down, you have the flexibility to switch plans or suppliers at any time.
Time-of-use plan: A TOU plan charges different rates based on when you use energy. One example is called "free nights and weekends." In a TOU plan, charges are tied to the time of day or day of the week, with peak and off-peak periods. Peak hours are when energy demand is high, and usually come with higher rates, while off-peak hours have lower rates. This plan encourages customers to shift their energy usage to off-peak times to save money.
Green energy plan: A green energy plan, also known as a renewable energy plan, allows you to support environmentally friendly energy sources that are alternative to traditional energy delivery. These plans ensure that a certain percentage of the electricity supplied comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydro or geothermal. It enables customers to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a cleaner energy future.
Prepaid plan: In a prepaid energy plan, customers pay in advance for their electricity usage, depositing money into your account before you use the energy. This plan is beneficial for those who want to closely monitor and manage their energy consumption. On these plans, when your prepaid balance runs low, you need to top it up to continue receiving power.
Another five states have partially deregulated or restructured environments:
What is deregulated energy?
Energy deregulation refers to a utility system of retail energy choice, where different companies other than the existing energy utility are able to offer different packages of deals, giving customers a choice of who they purchase energy from.
In states without a deregulated utility environment, governing bodies manage a regulated monopoly, where one company provides the utility across the state, with rates and prices controlled by the government.
Whether a state is deregulated or not, that particular state's utilities are managed by its public utility commission, or PUC, a governing body that regulates public utility rates and services. Different public utility commissions operate in different ways, but their ultimate goal is to represent citizens' interests when determining utility policies. So ultimately, even a "deregulated" state is still regulated. That's why Basseches generally prefers to call it a "restructured" state instead.
"The difference is whether the entire utility enterprise -- from cradle to grave -- is regulated the same way in terms of cost to consumers … or whether various aspects of that supply chain are opened up to competition," he said. "It's not just the one utility company (in a deregulated state) that's setting prices, and only parts of the cost are regulated by the commission."