Last week, the NH Public Utilities Comission (PUC) issued a report calling for Public Service of NH (PSNH) to sell its remaining interest in electric generating facilities. This issue has drawn sharp focus on changes that have reshaped the electric supply industry in our State since the generating industry was deregulated in 2001.
Today roughly 25% of PSNH customer purchase power from one of the dozen alternate suppliers that have sprung up in the State. Customers who switch providers still pay PSNH a line charge for delivering electricity and maintaining the distribution infrastructure (about half of a typical utility bill is comprised of these "distribution service" charges.) But now customers can choose from a complex array of fixed-price offers and "green" plans that promise your electricity will be sourced from renewable providers.
So, what does this all mean to a typical Upper Valley homeowner? Here are a few summary observations and web links that can help you navigate this relatively new set of choices:
1. Vermont residents can't participate - deregulation has not occurred in VT due (primarily) to the fact that its regulated utilities don't own generating plants.
2. New Hampshire residents are served by Liberty Utilities (formerly Granite State) and the NH Electric Coop, whose current power charges are somewhat lower than PSNH - $.075 - $.085 KWH versus $.092 for PSNH.
3. Alternative providers offer plans in the Upper Valley, but the opportunity for financial savings are quite limited in our market, since both the Utilities and the Alternatives purchase power from the same unregulated generators.
4. Green energy plans are available in our area, at prices that only slightly exceed your current rates.
5. This is a "buyer beware" market- the new providers are still relatively unproven, and some of their marketing plans have been criticized for "bait and switch" tactics, offering a teaser 6 month rate to lure new subscribers. But as long as you do your homework and keep a close eye on contract terms and renewal options, you're not going to get burned.
6. Homeowners who receive electric subsidies from the State may lose current benefits if they switch providers.
Here are some links that can help you do the necessary homework:
Link to Alternative Providers - http://www.empowerNH.com
Link to NH PUC advice on choosing Alternatives - http://www.puc.nh.gov/Consumer/energysuppliers.htm
So what did I do? I signed up for an Alternative provider for a business I own in Concord, serviced by UNITIL, where the projected savings are going to be about $20/ month through the end of the year. Since there aren't any significant savings available on my residence in Lyme, I'll stay put with NH Electric Coop for the time being and see how the Concord experiment goes.
If any readers have experience with Upper Valley alternatives, please post a comment to help others!