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Shedding more light on ESCOs

Shedding more light on ESCOs

PSC should OK National Grid's rate tool quickly

New York state energy consumers have the ability to choose from a slew of suppliers for their electricity or natural gas — some of which are priced lower than the utilities (like National Grid) that still have monopolies to deliver the energy regardless of who supplies it. But few consumers seem to know they can do so, or they’ve had such a hard time trying to determine whether switching to an alternative supplier makes sense, that the number of residential utility customers who do so is still relatively small.

Sorting it all out is no easy feat, and while the Public Service Commission does maintain a website (askPSC.com) that offers some guidance, it’s not the most user-friendly and, again, few consumers probably even know it exists.

To its credit, the PSC has been trying to improve outreach on this issue and seems ready to take a logical step. It got National Grid to agree to develop an analysis for inclusion in consumers’ monthly power bills (and online) that will enable them to compare National Grid’s prices and those of other energy service companies (also known as ESCOs). And not just a one month’s price comparison, but a year’s worth.

Last week, National Grid submitted a proposal fulfilling this requirement to the PSC (documents.dps.ny.gov/public/Common/ViewDoc.aspx?DocRefId={DA483FFB-2A5D-45D5-A249-6BFEA46B2712}).

Who knows when the PSC will decide over the National Grid filing, or how long afterward it will take the company to implement it. By fall, the beginning of next heating season, would seem like a reasonable target.

In the meantime, consumers should do some of their own research into ESCOs. They allow consumers more options, like whether to lock in energy prices or let them fluctuate monthly, than the typical monopoly supplier. Guessing — gambling — on the direction of energy prices can pay off handsomely or cost a lot of money, which is why consumers need to arm themselves with as much information as they can get. A cost comparison chart that’s part of the monthly bill should help.

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