Consumers can shop for good energy rates by visiting sites such as Power to Choose and SaveOne Energy, which provides current rate information for numerous states. In states such as Pennsylvania, the public utility commission provides consumers with comparative energy rates by ZIP code.
Energy company plans include fixed rate, changing rate and market rate. Fixed-rate plans offer simple budget planning, since rates remain relatively stable during the contract duration. Locking in a good rate on this plan means consumers pay the same rates for power, regardless of market fluctuations, but cannot take advantage of dropping prices until their contracts expire. With changing-rate plans, energy bills go up or down depending on market fluctuations, and consumers are stuck paying higher energy prices in the wintertime or when natural disasters cause rate spikes. Market-rate plans rise or fall according to the public utility index's performance, but these plans offer more cost predictability than changing-rate plans.
Energy companies offer contract plans with various lengths, and terms might be from one month to the next, last for several months, or go on for years. When choosing a plan, a consumer is wise to find out when it expires so that he can have a new plan in place before its expiration date.