Nearly 90% of ratepayers in the state want to be able to choose their own supplier for their electricity bill, according to a recent survey from Emerson College Polling, but far fewer – 17% – have taken the route of actually shopping for a third-party supplier.
According to the head of the national advocacy organization Retail Energy Advancement League (REAL), which commissioned the survey, the reluctance may have something to do with the support a customer receives when the utility handles the billing and communication.
“It’s unfortunate that despite the clear opportunities for savings and rate shock protection, most Connecticut ratepayers are unaware of their ability to shop,” said Chris Ercoli, President and CEO of REAL, in a prepared release. “Given the historic rate increases Connecticut customers are facing, now is the time to equip them with the tools and education necessary to shop the market and protect themselves from continued rate increases.
Emerson College Polling surveyed 1,500 Connecticut residents.
Of the respondents, 95% supported a market that allows for choice in the products and services they select, with no government restrictions, and 76% oppose decisions by the government to restrict the choice of products they purchase.
Connecticut customers of Eversource and United Illuminating saw a big increase in their electricity bills starting in January. Shopping around for a third-party supplier is a way for residents to realize substantial savings, according to a recent consumer alert issued by the state’s Office of Consumer Counsel.
In November 2022, retail suppliers served only 8.2% of Eversource residential customers and 8.6% of United Illuminating residential customers, according to updated numbers provided by the OCC.
Also in November, seven out of ten residential supply customers paid less than the standard offer in Eversource territory, and six out of ten residential supplier customers paid less than the standard offer in UI territory, according to the OCC.
EnergizeCT’s rate board is a tool that helps residential and business electricity customers compare standard service rates from Eversource and United Illuminating with those from licensed third-party electric suppliers and registered aggregators.
REAL says third-party suppliers can offer customers savings of more than 30% on the supply portion of the electric bill, which is separate from delivery, during the winter months. Some suppliers offer electricity plans produced 100% by renewable energy sources.
Third-party customers saved a combined $10.7 million between January and November in 2022. However, the January OCC report also pointed out that, since January 2015 when OCC started tracking supplier data, customers with third-party suppliers have overpaid nearly $300 million more than standard service.
REAL representatives said they have created a winter shopping guide to help consumers choose a third-party supplier.
The OCC consumer alert says that if residents decide to go with third-party suppliers, they should pay careful attention to details such as keeping up with utility standard rates as they update every 6 months, and watch for expiration dates, and the rates at which they may be auto-renewed.
Consumers have the following rights, according to the OCC:
- An electric supplier must provide a copy of a contract disclosing the rate and what circumstance under which it may change, and if it is a fixed rate, the provider must give 30 days notice before that rate expires;
- Consumers have 72 hours to cancel a contract without penalty;
- Consumers must approve any changes to a signed contract, and;
- Suppliers can not charge a cancellation fee.