Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Are Maryland’s energy suppliers mailing and calling you advertising prices supposedly lower than BGE’s? Have you wondered if it’s worth it to switch, or if these firms are even legit?

These are good questions. Maryland’s deregulated energy market is tricky. However, there is a hassle-free way to choose renewable energy for your home, save cash and skip the hassle of third-party suppliers altogether. 

Ever since Maryland deregulated its energy markets in 1999 with hopes of spurring competition that would lower prices for electricity and gas, utility customers have had the option to switch their home or business energy supply to one of 50-plus competing firms, known also as third-party suppliers.

In Baltimore, BGE continues to deliver electricity and natural gas to your home through their poles and lines. If you do nothing, the company will remain the regulated default supplier for your home’s electricity and/or natural gas. 

Those who choose a third-party supplier continue to receive a monthly BGE bill, but it includes the supplier’s charges rather than any from BGE itself. About 21 percent of Maryland’s homes have switched to a supplier other than their utility. 

Results are mixed

In reality, most suppliers offer the exact same types of energy as BGE, but for higher prices. (Yes, you read that right.) Most households that have switched suppliers thus would have been better off if they’d just stuck with their utility. The reasons are many; if you’re interested, read up on that here. 

But it’s worth noting that a select few are saving, and choosing renewable “green electricity” in the process.

Choosing clean energy at home is the second-most effective individual action you can take to reduce your carbon pollution. (The first is to drive less, and to drive a gas-sipping vehicle.)

Here are a few options:

1. Easiest: Go 50 percent green, and pay the same as with BGE

Busy people who don’t closely track their energy bills can skip traditional suppliers and try Arcadia Power. The company offers a free membership that allows you to draw up to 50 percent of your home’s electricity usage from renewable sources.

Unlike with most suppliers, Arcadia Power members know exactly which renewable wind farm is supplying their energy. With no contracts or fees, there is no future action needed and there aren’t any yearly renewal “gotchas” once you join Arcadia Power’s program.

Those who switch will remain customers of BGE, and will give Arcadia Power access to their BGE electricity usage through their online account. Members can view their bills and data through their online Arcadia Power dashboard.

The benefits: Simplicity, transparency and no added costs for going 50 percent renewable. The downside: Only half of your home’s electricity will come from renewable sources. The rest comes from a mix of coal, natural gas and nuclear power.

2. Medium: Go 100 percent green with Arcadia Power, and pay a smidge more than you would with BGE

For those who also don’t keep close watch of their monthly bills, but want to go ubergreen, Arcadia Power members can opt for 100 percent wind energy by paying an extra $0.015 for each kilowatt hour used at their home. The average yearly cost would be roughly $100 to $200.

The benefits: Simplicity and transparency. The downside: More expensive. 

3. Hardest: Go 150 to 200 percent renewable, and pay less than you would with BGE

This option is good for the mindful, organized energy user.

As mentioned above, energy deregulation’s overall result has been lousy because the 50-plus third-party suppliers operating in Maryland offer an array of confusing–and even deceptive–pricing plans.

But when you switch to a renewable supplier the smart way and join Arcadia Power, you can combine the two products and go super-green.

This option combines the 100 percent wind you get from a third-party supplier, plus the automatic 50 percent wind from Arcadia Power. If you choose to pay Arcadia Power’s additional wind premium, you will be supporting renewables at 200 percent of your home’s electricity usage. 

The benefits: Pay lower-than-BGE-rates for renewable energy and be ubergreen.

The downside: You’ll need to invest some time, and you must stay on top of your supplier contract. 

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Enroll in Arcadia Power’s Price Alert program. Arcadia Power tracks your supplier contract and suggests optimal pricing plans during your renewal period. 
  2. Read our Step-by-Step Guide to Making A Smart Electricity Choice in Maryland.
  3. Know your BGE rate to compare. Through May 2019, it’s only $0.077 per kwh.
  4. Only switch online. It takes two minutes. Clearview Energy offers the lowest rate in BGE territory, but for only six months. See the photo below of the correct Clearview Energy plan.
  5. Enter your supplier contract end date into your phone’s alert system to remind you when the contract ends.  
  6. At the end of your six-month contract, compare the Clearview Energy renewal rates sent to you via snail mail. If Clearview’s rates are high, you can either stay with their rates, cancel and automatically revert your account back to BGE supply, or visit the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel monthly pricing charts and choose a fixedrate renewable plan that beats BGE. 

This is clearly a tricky option. The above process hints at why energy deregulation isn’t working for most of the 450,000 Maryland residential accounts currently using third-party suppliers. But for some people, this option is doable.

In BGE territory, Clearview Energy’s six-month renewable plan beats BGE’s “dirty” energy rate.
In BGE territory, Clearview Energy’s six-month renewable plan beats BGE’s “dirty” energy rate.

Please note: Do not switch your natural gas supply. There are no renewable options, and supplier gas prices are sky-high.

Laurel Peltier writes the environment GreenLaurel column every Thursday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.