Take advantage of energy choice in the Buckeye State!
Shopping for electricity in Ohio’s deregulated market is the easiest way to find lower energy prices, great promotional offers, and — best of all — choice for your home electricity.
Instead of the local utilities dictating the terms and price of the electricity you need, you now can choose what works for you from a host of competing companies. By visiting Ohio’s Apple-to-Apples website, you can compare offers from Certified Retail Electric Suppliers (CRES) in all four of Ohio’s local Electric Distribution Utility (EDU) service zones.
And yes, you can still purchase service from your local utility at the Standard Service Offer price, but you still pay the same transmission and delivery rates no matter who your provider is. Why not explore all of your opportunities to find the electricity service that best fits your home’s energy and lifestyle needs?
How Ohio Electricity Choice Works
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) takes care of a vast majority of electricity operations in the Buckeye State. PUCO oversees the EDU’s and CRES’s in Ohio’s deregulated electricity market. It sets rules for electric distribution companies (the old incumbent utility) to transmit and distribute electricity to ALL of Ohio’s energy customers fairly.
PUCO approves these utilities’ Standard Service Offers (SSO’s) for customers who do not have a retail electricity supplier. PUCO also helps organize and oversee the electricity auctions that determine the retail generation service rates in that utility’s service zone.
Ohio’s rural areas are served by Rural Electric Cooperatives (REC’s). Ohio’s rural electric cooperatives are generally referred to as “unregulated utilities” because, with a few exceptions, PUCO’s statutes and rules governing utilities do not apply to the 25 REC’s serving rural residents. All told, REC’s combined service territory covers about 40 percent of Ohio.
What are the Electric Distribution Utilities (EDU)?
An EDU is a utility company that distributes energy to all customers – whether they have switched to an energy marketer, aggregator, or are signed up as the utility’s customers. Currently, there are four local utility companies, and each is owned by a national energy company:
- Duke Energy Ohio – Owned by Duke Energy
- AEP (Ohio) – Owned by American Electric Power and operates as the Ohio Power Company in the Columbus Southern Power service zone and also in the Ohio Power service zone
- First Energy Companies – Owns Ohio Edison, Toledo Edison, and (Cleveland) The Illuminating Company
- AES Ohio – Owned by AES
These utilities are also responsible for providing a standard service offer (SSO) to consumers in their service zones that do not have (or have not chosen) a retail electricity supplier. Rates are set through competitive auctions that must be approved by PUCO. While each utility remains the sole electricity distributor in their service area, they are required to distribute electricity to every customer in that service area, no matter who the retail electricity supplier is.
All customers must pay a distribution cost added onto their monthly bill, even those who use the local utility as their retail electricity supplier. The distribution cost is composed of the costs resulting from electric operations, equipment, and Ohio energy-related programs. Distribution costs and related charges may be determined by each local utility but those charges (included in the utility’s Electric Security Plan filing) must also be approved by PUCO.
Certified Retail Electric Suppliers (CRES)
Unlike the state’s four utilities, each Certified Retail Electric Supplier (CRES) doesn’t set its prices with PUCO oversight. Instead, retailers purchase electricity from the electricity wholesale market, allowing them more options for buying, pricing, and offering great incentives.
Currently, Ohio energy customers can choose to buy energy from about 101 Certified Retail Electric Suppliers (CRES). These include:
- One of the four aforementioned local utilities
- Marketers — Businesses selling electricity service to individuals and businesses
- Brokers or Aggregators — Contracting with retailers on behalf of groups of buyers
- Government Aggregators — County, municipal, or local community governments contracting with suppliers for service on behalf of their local communities
In the case where counties, townships, villages, and cities are permitted to set up aggregation supply agreements, residents still have the power to choose NOT to participate in the aggregation plan. To do so, customers must file the “Electric Do Not Aggregate List” form with PUCO.
Let’s Go Shopping!
When you go to the PUCO’s Apples to Apples Electricity website, you must select which of the four utilities is your residential service provider. Once you’ve identified that utility, you’ll be taken to the comparison charts page. In addition to a link to your local utility company’s chart archive, it lists ALL the competitive retail suppliers licensed to serve in that area.
Rates are either be fixed or variable:
- Fixed-rate plans have a fixed price at a set term of service, usually between 3 months and 36 months. A recent PUCO ruling firmly established that “fixed means fixed” – requiring suppliers to exclude any mechanisms in the terms and conditions of fixed contracts that potentially allow for unforeseen charges to be passed through to customers.
- Variable rates will change monthly depending on wholesale prices, demand, and other factors.
The following information will help you to compare electricity service prices and promotional offers to get the best deal.
- Supplier: Name of the supplier, address, phone number, website URL, Terms of Service, and sign up.
- $/KWh: In Ohio, electricity is sold by the kilowatt hour.
- Renewable Content: The percentage of renewable energy content in the plan.
- Introductory Price: This states whether the rate is an introductory rate and what those conditions mean. Introductory rates are usually very low for the first month only. Afterwards, customers are put into a standard variable-rate plan.
- Term Length: Rate plans can have term lengths varying from month-to-month to 36 months (3 years).
- Early Termination Fee: This is the amount you will need to pay to end your service agreement early. Generally, month-to-month rate plans don’t have one, while fixed rate plans will. Always weigh this fee carefully when shopping for new plans.
- Monthly Fee: Some utility companies charge monthly services fees. You will need to speak with your local utility for more clarification on this fee.
- Promotional Offers: Some companies make promotional offers. These include things like movie tickets, airline discounts, gift certificates, smart thermostats, and others. Keep these in mind when you’re shopping because these can really sweeten a deal for you.
Comparison Shopping Saves
As you compare prices, also compare the Terms of Service for each plan. The Terms of Service explains any additional fees, deposits, or other miscellaneous charges, such as paying by phone or online. Read and understand all the terms. Also verify whether the plan has an introductory, fixed, or variable-rate term.
PUCO has a very handy worksheet that helps you keep track and compare offers as well as a list of questions you should ask each retail electricity supplier. Contact the supplier if you have any more questions. Only give out your account number when you are ready to sign.
After You Switch
Once you sign up with a supplier, your local utility will send you a letter to confirm the change. If the information is correct, you do not have to do anything. If the information is incorrect, contact the utility and request that the switch be stopped.
You can change your mind. Ohio’s Right of Recession grants you seven (7) business days of the postmark date of that letter to cancel a contract without penalty by contacting the utility by phone or in writing.
When your first bill arrives, examine it carefully. PUCO provides an excellent bill guide to make switching to a retailer supplier easy and effortless.
PUCO works to provide all Ohio consumers with fair rates and ensure safe, reliable service. Ohio energy consumers also have rights and responsibilities as customers and these are spelled out in Ohio’s Electric Customers’ Bill of Rights. If you have problems with your service, contact you retail electricity supplier first. Contact PUCO if the problem is not resolved to your satisfaction.