The Citizens Utility Board (CUB), a Chicago-based nonprofit that represents the interests of utility customers – is offering a free calculator to help ratepayers determine how to save the most money in the deregulated Illinois electricity market.
The CUB Power Calculator is intended to help Illinois residents learn what they would pay an alternative electric supplier versus the regulated utility (either Commonwealth Edison or Ameren Illinois).
“Illinois electric customers need to be savvy shoppers,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said in a product presentation. “CUB wants to help Illinois [customers to] avoid rip-offs and choose the right electric option.”
The tool allows users to type in the alternative supply rate they wish to compare to the utility’s price; as well as any extra monthly fees charged by the supplier, and their estimated monthly electricity usage for the summer (June through September). Using this information, it calculates what the user would spend with the alternative supplier offer versus ComEd or Ameren.
Illinoisans can stay with the utility for their supply rate and are under no obligation to switch to another supplier. CUB suggests that shoppers evaluating an alternative supplier deal should use the calculator and ask the following questions:
- Is the advertised price a variable rate that will change on a monthly frequency, or a rate that is fixed for a certain period?
- Is the alternative supplier price an introductory rate that could skyrocket after a few months?
- Does the offer force me to pay an exit fee, if I want to get out of the contract? (Just this year, CUB successfully pushed for a new law that caps electric exit fees in Illinois at $50 for offers going forward.)
Shoppers also should know that it can take up to two months to switch to an alternative supplier, so a deal that looks good now may not be as advantageous in the future.
Finally, the consumer watchdog organization warns utility customers not to give out their electric bill or account numbers unless they are sure they want to switch. That’s an invitation for an unethical marketer to change a customer to an alternative supplier without his or her consent.