New Jerseyans have the ability to choose energy suppliers. The question is: Should you?
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New Jersey deregulated its energy market in 1999, allowing people to choose which companies generate the electricity that's supplied to their homes. The idea behind the legislation was to introduce competition to the formerly monopolized energy market.
"Not everyone bothers to take advantage of the opportunity to switch," said Clinton Andrews, professor of urban planning and policy development at Rutgers University and director of its Center for Urban Policy Research (which has research contracts with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities).
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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.
We'll help you find the best electricity rates in your area
All rates displayed are accurate as of Aug. 9, 2023, for the ZIP codes listed with 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, enter your ZIP code at Choose Energy. These rates only represent the supply charges, not the utility's delivery charges or any taxes.
Simply put, it means you can choose where your electricity comes from.
"Deregulation in New Jersey came as part of the national pattern that started in 1978, with the passage of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, which was meant to encourage renewables and alternative energy, but also had basically allowed competition at the generation level," Andrews said. "Deregulation very much emphasized opening up competition at the generation level, and not really at the transmission and distribution level."
It wasn't until 1999 that New Jersey's legislature passed a bill allowing for energy deregulation. Because of its passage, New Jerseyans can choose who generates the electricity that is then transmitted and distributed by their utilities (which cannot be switched) based on price, contract term and renewable content.
New Jersey utility vs. electric supplier
There are four major utilities that service most of New Jersey. They are:
Public Service Electric and Gas, or PSE&G. Andrews said it provides both electricity and gas in a territory that is "basically a straight line between New York City and Philadelphia."
Jersey Central Power & Light, which operates on the Jersey Shore and some parts of northwestern New Jersey.
Atlantic City Electric, which serves South Jersey including Atlantic City.
Rockland Electric, which serves part of the northeastern corner of the state.
While New Jerseyans are locked into these utilities based on where they live, they have the ability to choose who generates the electricity that is then transmitted to their homes.
What types of electricity plans are offered in New Jersey?
Your options are fairly simple in terms of electricity:
Stay with your utility
Stick with the vast majority of New Jersey residents and opt to stay with your utility's generation plan. Utilities often compete to offer lower prices on electricity, so doing nothing may actually yield good energy prices.
Shop the marketplace
You don't know what you don't know. Your other option is to look at the alternative energy generation suppliers and see how they match up against your utility.
How do you find the best electricity rates in New Jersey?
There are three major considerations to finding the best alternative electricity rates: the price per kilowatt-hour, the term of the contract and the renewable content of the energy (for example, solar or wind). Here's the advice provided by NJ Power Switch, the state's website for its deregulated energy market:
"Shopping for Energy may save you money on your electric or natural gas utility bill, however, this is not always the case. Prior to agreeing to switch to a Third Party Supplier, it is necessary to become familiar with TPS pricing structures, important contract terms, and how to compare TPS price offers to the price you currently pay for gas or electric supplies from your electric or gas public utility."
The onus is on you to research the rates you're currently paying to your utility to what third-party suppliers are offering. Andrews said other considerations are just as important as price.
"As a homeowner, the things that I want to manage are, yes, I want the low price," Andrews said. "But I also want to know that the price isn't too volatile, I want to be able to plan ahead and understand how summer rates are different from winter rates," so as to not be surprised by big changes, like when Europeans encountered energy shortages due to the war in Ukraine or when Texas encountered extreme weather.
"The final thing I would mention is reliability," Andrews said. "It's important to be able to count on your electricity provider, both to deliver power 99.99% of the time, but also to respond quickly and effectively after major disasters like a hurricane." Some of this information can be found in reports by the US Energy Information Administration and Department of Energy.
What should you look for when choosing an electricity plan in New Jersey?
Here's the issue with deregulated energy markets: They tend to attract dishonest companies looking to gouge potential customers with unclear terms, such as fees for high or low usage. In 2014, there were a significant number of consumer complaints about energy bill increases, leading to an investigation by state agencies.
"You always want to take a 'buyer beware' view of things and look for odd contract clauses, like fees for low or high usage, or if there's a peak power clause that says that you'll have to pay significantly more per kilowatt-hour during peak hours," Andrews said. "Or if the provider has the ability to change the price on short notice."
How to make the switch in New Jersey
Perhaps one reason so few New Jerseyans switch their energy suppliers is that it appears rather difficult to compare your options. NJ Power Switch does have a list of licensed third party suppliers on its website (based on your utility), but few tools to make it easy to compare rates like those found in other states. Instead, you'll have to visit each supplier's website, find their rates and look at their terms to compare to your utility's. If you find a supplier you like, you'll just need to register on its website. The changes should be reflected within a billing cycle or two on your utility bill.
How much does PSE&G charge per kWh in New Jersey?
The rates change based on the time of year, particularly the season. For the latest rates, visit this page then click the "Electric Price to Compare" button.
What is the 2023 electricity rate increase for PSE&G in New Jersey?
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in February announced auction results that will lead to "slightly higher costs for electricity supplied to most residents," according to a press release. The rate increase this year was 3.3%, meaning a PSE&G electric bill that was $122.39 increased by $4.09 to $126.48.
Why is electricity so expensive in New Jersey?
Andrews said electricity in New Jersey is expensive due to three factors: First, "New Jersey is at the end of all the energy pipelines -- it has nothing in the ground." Next, "it is fairly expensive to serve highly urbanized areas with electricity because of the challenge of getting infrastructure in place, and the high price of labor." The last comes down to politics, as different administrations will either prioritize lower prices, reducing pollution or improving reliability, or some combination of these factors.
Is PSE&G gas or electric?
This large New Jersey utility provides its customers with both gas and electricity.