The first step to procuring retail energy for your business is to identify available suppliers and find out what prices, terms, and conditions they can offer. “Shopping” websites can help you identify suppliers and compare retail product offers from different suppliers in your area. Energy consultants can also help to solicit quotes and compare offers, as well as negotiate the best deal.
Retail Energy Shopping Websites
The most basic shopping sites are simply directories of suppliers that are active in a specific state, utility service territory, or other market. Some allow you to search by zip code. More advanced sites allow you to solicit offers from several suppliers at once.
For residential and small commercial customers, the process can be very straightforward. The websites Choose Energy and Save on Energy allow customers to compare numerous offerings at once. The sites provide information on pricing, contract duration, renewable percentage, total cost based on use, and terms and conditions—and links that allow customers to sign up on the spot. Many state-run websites provide similar information.
For large commercial customers, the process is different, in part because many want to pursue customized approaches that meet their specific needs or align with their current market perspectives. These sites allow you to enter your zip code, contact information, and monthly energy payment and receive offers from several competitive gas and electricity providers in your area.
It is important to understand who owns the website. Some are created by individual suppliers or small groups of suppliers to advertise their own products. State-run websites can usually be trusted to present information objectively and on a very wide range of suppliers, but not all states offer these sites, especially for business customers. Utilities often provide supplier lists, but rarely more than that. In any case, it can be valuable to check multiple sources when searching for a provider.
Regardless of the level of detail, always read the fine print, and contact suppliers directly with any questions before signing a contract. It also helps to compare competitive offers against default pricing from your local utility.
Energy Brokers & Consultants
Energy consultants provide a wide range of services related to energy procurement. This includes:
- Soliciting initial quotes.
- Developing RFPs.
- Comparing bids.
- Negotiating final agreements.
- Providing market monitoring and intelligence.
- Exploring other energy management options (energy efficiency, demand response, and distributed generation).
We may discuss consultant services in more detail in a future issue of Retail Energy Buyer and whether it makes sense for your business to employ a consultant or broker.