The last time I went home to visit my family in Massachusetts, my parents asked for my help. My little brother had been going to the same Kempo Karate studio I went to for years, but had grown more and more frustrated with the classes over the last year or so. The school’s master was spread thin between two other schools and had become distracted by personal problems. As a result, his studio and my brother’s training had suffered. My brother was only a few ranks away from his black belt, but he was so disappointed with the school that he debated quitting entirely. My parents didn’t know what to do. Should they force him to keep going to karate classes he was beginning to dread? Or let him quit, losing years of training?
What my parents didn’t know was that there was a third option. Soon after I got my black belt in high school, I found out that a friend of mine also had a black belt. He had even learned the same style of karate I had, just from a different school. Naturally, we immediately started fighting each other (barefoot, in the snow). His training wasn’t a joke. He knew what he was doing. He’d gone to a good school, one that was probably better than mine. Remembering this, I told my parents and little brother about the school my friend went to. I asked my friend to introduce me to his old master, then took my little brother down to see the studio and meet him too. My brother was loyal to his old teacher but as we watched a class together, he saw that this school offered so much more the other couldn’t. By the time class was over, he had decided to transfer. My parents were grateful! They’d been sending us kids to the same karate school for so long, they never realized they had a different choice.
A Competitive Electricity Market Empowers Consumers
Choice empowers consumers. If there’s only one karate studio in town, you either have to go there or go nowhere, no matter how good or bad the studio is. This is similar with other goods and services such as cell phones, haircuts, cars, elected officials, and even electricity. When there’s competition between providers, like when there are two karate studios in town, consumers can compare them and choose the one that best meets their needs. This helps raise the overall quality of goods and services, as companies who don’t offer competitive products risk losing business to the ones that do.
In most of the country, consumers can only purchase their electricity from one supplier, a government-regulated utility. That’s not the case in Massachusetts. In an effort to provide consumers with better prices and more options, Massachusetts legislators have restructured the electricity market, which has led to almost 100 different electricity suppliers offering customers a variety of available supply plans.
Except for areas of the state serviced by electricity co-ops, customers have far more options to choose from than ever before. Companies offer rates on a fixed or variable basis, and on a short or long-term basis. Customers also have the choice to purchase renewable energy credits, which ensure that the amount of energy they use will be produced by renewable sources like wind and solar.
What do these options mean exactly? Here’s the breakdown:
- Fixed rates are based on the average cost of electricity, and stay the same for the plan’s duration despite changes in the energy market.
- Variable rates are linked directly to the price the supplier pays for electricity. They may be less expensive than fixed rate plans at times, but can also be more expensive if the cost of electricity rises.
- Short term plans offer customers flexibility, at the cost of a slightly higher price for service.
- Long term plans offer customers a slightly lower price but lock them into a particular provider for a longer period of time.
- Renewable energy options may be more expensive than others, but help customers reduce their carbon footprint and spur innovation in renewable technology. While the energy you use may not literally come directly from a solar farm, an amount equal to what you use is guaranteed to be produced and purchased.
All of this gives consumers more options, so they can choose the plan that works best for them. Also, because there are so many options out there, companies operating in Massachusetts must work hard to deliver the best service they can, or risk losing market share to a different company with a better deal.
Deciding Which Power Plan is Right for You
The downside to having so many options is what’s known as the “tyranny of choice.” With a hundred companies, each offering a multitude of plans, how do you you’ve chosen the best plan for you and your household? Is switching to a new provider actually an improvement, or do you risk losing a benefit you’ve overlooked? Is it possible to even compare so many different options, and how many hours are you willing to spend weighing them against each other? By the time you’ve looked at all of them, will any have changed?
To solve this problem, online listings are available that display each power company’s comparative options, all in one place. Electricrate.com and chooseenergy.com allow customers to search for plans available in their area and compare them side by side. Mass.gov and national grid offer listings of registered, certified power suppliers. By taking a little bit of time out of your day and using these resources, you’ll get a good feel for what’s available, what’s a good deal and what isn’t.
Remember, it’s good to follow up on an appealing deal with a phone call, just so you can ensure that what you see is what you’re going to get. Of course, the cardinal rules of caveat emptor always apply—don’t say “yes” to a salesperson without doing your homework, and if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
When you’re comparing power plans for your home or residence in Massachusetts, we hope you’ll consider Liberty Power as an option. We offer fixed-rate plans, at competitive prices, for short or long-term contracts. Better yet, we offer friendly, knowledgeable customer service to answer your questions and make sure you’re getting the deal that’s best for you. To learn more, contact us today.
Photo Credit: tpsdave