Tuesday, July 01, 2014

One Way to Reduce Your Home Energy Bill

Another entry in my "Don't try this at home" Home Improvement series:

About a month ago, I received a phone solicitation from IDT Energy--one of many third party energy suppliers that have called, seeking to sell me energy. In Princeton, PSEG still delivers the energy, but the energy itself can be bought from a large variety of suppliers through the NJ Energy Choice program. You can buy 100% renewable energy, or some smaller percentage, but even the 100% renewable is only minimally more expensive. If you stay with PSEG as a supplier, their energy is produced mostly from nuclear, coal, and gas. Some of the other suppliers calling for your business may be mostly coal.

It sounded like IDT was going to sell me electricity at an incredibly cheap rate of 3 cents a kilowatt hour. The usual rate is about 17 cents. Thinking it too good to be true, but intrigued, I went along with it. What followed was about a half hour of tediously arranging the shift to the new company. It sounded like there were inconsistencies in what they were offering, but they promised I'd see it all in writing in a week or two, and could cancel or switch back to my current provider at any time and for no charge. When the written version arrived, it turned out to be vague and boiler plate. The 3 cents, it seemed, was not the full amount but instead what they would add on to a base charge, which could vary.

I called to cancel. IDT said they'd investigate whether the third party company they had hired to do the phone solicitation was being misleading. Meanwhile, my current electricity provider, EnergyPlus, had called, offering 8% cash back at the end of the year if I stayed with them.

So it was not a complete waste of time. Some questionable phone solicitors may be investigated, and I'll get an annual check in the mail, which I'll probably mistake for junk mail and throw away. I also learned that the 100% wind power I'm paying a penny per kilowatt hour more for doesn't really come into my house as virtuous, green electrons, but rather means that EnergyPlus buys an equivalent amount of renewable energy certificates on the open market somewhere in the U.S. In other words, I'm helping stimulate wind energy production in Texas. It's one of the better things one can do with a few spare pennies.

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