BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – We’re all looking for bargains, especially on those high winter heating bills. New Yorkers were supposed to get a break more than 15 years ago when the energy market was opened up to give us choices. But it hasn’t worked out for residential customers, until now.
This year’s long bitter winter has driven heating bills to new highs we haven’t seen in years. But many commercial customers have signed on with energy service companies, called ESCOs for short, that cut them some slack.
Despite these choices, residential and small business customers have not been able to take advantage of those kinds of choices and the New York Public Service Commission is changing that.
Joe Del Vecchio, vice president of National Fuel Resources, a Williamsville-based ESCO, said, “Frequently they weren’t really familiar with how their product was being priced, or what they were purchasing, if it was a fixed price product versus a variable product. Hopefully, some of these new rules that are being put in place by the Commission will help alleviate some of those concerns.”
Vecchio agrees with the changes state utility regulators are making to help residential and small business customers take advantage of energy choices.
On a typical utility bill, the delivery charge is what it costs the company to deliver electricity, gas, or both. But the supply portion is what the ESCO can provide. In some cases, it is less. In other cases it might actually be more.
Steve Brady of National Grid said, “We also want there to be sort of a level playing field, so that all these companies, including National Grid, are dealing with customers in the same way – open, transparent. That way people can understand exactly what they are paying for.”
Brady points out, ESCOs are not competing with utilities. He says, in most instances, even when you sign up with an ESCO, your bill still comes from the utility.
The Commission’s new rules are also supposed to crack down on the “bad actors” in the energy market. Those that bend the rules, offering their service door-to-door, and those who mislead customers.
We’re told the state will be launching public awareness campaign, promoting these changes very soon.