The expansion of energy choice participation has seen modest growth over the last year in Maryland despite consumers living in the state’s four largest utility areas becoming more aware of their options. Customers who receive their electric bill from BGE&G, PEPCO, Potomac Edison, and Delmarva Power & Light have the ability to shop for a better electricity supplier who might be able to offer a lower price than the utility default rate. Customers in smaller rural coops do not currently have the ability to power shop.
The growth in Maryland energy choice shopping has seen a slight increase over the last two years due to higher utility default rates and lower competitive prices. Shopping activity had been slow to start as competitive suppliers found it difficult to offer prices that could yield savings over the utility default rates. Savings are usually needed in a new market so spark an interest in a customer pool who is used to buying their power from one option. When that spark doesn’t exist due to high alternative pricing options, the market becomes stagnant. That has changed marginally in the last several years as saving opportunities are finally showing their head.
However the overall switch rate is still low when compared to other electricity choice markets. In the Baltimore region, despite the lowest BG&E electricity suppliers offering rates below the default rate, only 27.3% of customers in the area were buying power from a competitive supplier at the end of last year. The similarly sized PP&L market in Pennsylvania has seen as many as 50% of their residential class purchasing power from competitive suppliers during prolonged times of cheaper competitive rates. The commercial side has seen more success as four out of every 10 businesses in the state have entered into an electricity contract with an alternative supplier.
Despite the continued slow start, competitive electricity suppliers are fighting for new customers in the state. Their are more choices than ever before for Maryland electricity consumers, especially in BG&E service area. If the BG&E default rate remains higher than competitive prices, as has been the case for the last two years, the number of electricity shoppers in the area is expected to see a sharp increase.