Illinois’ energy deregulation started in 1997. Since then, businesses and residential energy customers have had the power to choose the energy supplier that works best for them and potentially save money on their energy bills. Today, we will explain how to choose the best electric supplier in Illinois and start saving big bucks on your energy bills. So let’s begin.
Where does the Energy Choice program in Illinois come from?
The “Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law” was approved in 1997, bringing deregulation to the electric market and giving customers the chance to choose their electric supplier in Illinois. We’ve come a long way since then. The opportunity to purchase from an Alternative Retail Electric Supplier (ARES) was only accessible to significant business energy users.
And while small companies and residential users in Illinois were still obligated to buy power from their designated utility, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) stepped in to shield homes and small businesses from utility rate spikes at this time by lowering their rates by 20% and then freezing them for ten years.
In 2002, the Energy Choice program began to cover residential customers; this gave them, for the first time, the power to choose an electric supplier in Illinois. However, not everyone switched. Due to the ICC mentioned above rate cap on utilities, which would not expire until 2007, many consumers stayed with their utility provider. Why? Because switching to an alternative electric supplier in Illinois was less enticing at the moment due to the decreased utility prices.
When the ICC-imposed rate limitation expired, after those 10 years, in 2007, public utilities were allowed to alter prices—leading to a dramatic increase in power costs by that year. The Consumer Choice Act was amended in response to widespread criticism. As a result, the Illinois Power Agency Act established the Illinois Power Agency and was enacted by the General Assembly in mid-2007.
Now, almost 20 years later, approximately 1.47 million residential customers have switched to a Retail Electric Supplier, according to PlugIn Illinois.
How to choose the best electric supplier in Illinois?
Source: Photo by Pedro Lastra on Unsplash
There are 3 major utility companies in Illinois, Ameren, ComEd, and MidAmerican. And customers in those service zones can pick their electric supplier in Illinois that doesn’t necessarily have to be their utility company. Switching your power provider could save you money, but this is not guaranteed. So make sure you read our tips to get the most out of it.
1. Understand the difference between utility companies and electricity suppliers
Let’s make a clear distinction between both; your energy service is separated into two parts: supply, which includes the cost of gas and/or electricity, and delivery, which provides for energy transportation. Energy delivery is still a regulated service, so your utility company is responsible for the wires, poles, and outage repair regardless of the energy source.
In a nutshell, energy providers offer the electricity that utility companies - and you – rely on, while utility companies distribute that electricity. Since 1997, the state has allowed deregulation of the supply portion of the process, allowing you to choose your own electric supplier in Illinois.
So, while you’ll still receive your electricity and gas through your local utility company’s infrastructure, energy deregulation gives you, the consumer, the ability to choose an energy supplier based on the criteria that matter most to you. Just bear in mind that the utility or Retail Electric Suppliers can sell electricity. However, buying it directly from the supplier can reduce short- and long-term costs.
You’ll continue to call your electric provider for outages, emergency services, and inquiries about your home service, regardless of who you select to provide your electricity. Because your electric service is still governed by the ICC, the quality, reliability, and maintenance will not change. The only difference is that your energy bill now shows new pricing for electricity and a new supplier.
2. Find out if you’re allowed to switch energy suppliers
The energy choice program applies to most part of the population of Illinois. However, there are some requirements to apply. All customers from Ameren and ComEd can switch their electric supplier in Illinois. The only exception is those who received LIHEAP financial assistance in the preceding 12 months or who are enrolled in PIPP at the time of enrollment are not eligible.
3. Shop around and find different suppliers in your area
The ICC has approved and registered several providers in the Ameren Illinois and ComEd areas. To make sure you’re talking with a licensed supplier, you can contact the providers directly or visit the ICC’s Supplier List, Ameren Illinois Choice, or ComEd’s Choice websites for a list of each electric supplier in Illinois. Once you’ve chosen, check out the following steps:
- Check your previous provider’s terms of the agreement, including early termination costs, as well as the terms of agreement with your new supplier.
- If you switch to a new provider, that provider will enroll you and end your subscription with your previous provider.
- If you want to switch back to ComEd or Ameren’s supply service, talk to your current supplier about canceling the service and switching back to your utility. When you terminate your electricity service with a provider, they handle your request within two business days of receiving it.
4. Read the fine print before enrolling with a new supplier
Who likes to find out there is a fine print that costs you a lot of money? No one! That’s why we recommend you read the terms and conditions of your service carefully. Saving money is not a rule of thumb when switching your electric supplier in Illinois. You’ll need to contact local service providers for pricing information, then compare the various packages’ costs, charges, and other details.
5. Visit our energy marketplace and let us take care of it all
When you shop for an electric supplier in Illinois, you might face different challenges. But don’t worry, you don’t have to go through it yourself. At PowerChoiceNow, the process is straightforward. You might begin by spending a few minutes filling out a form where we ask you for information about your energy consumption. Once we find your specific needs, we’ll gather a list of each licensed electric supplier in Illinois and match it with your habits to find the best solution for you. And the best of all? It’s a free service for you! Just enter your zip code at the bottom of the website and try it out!