So, you have decided that natural gas is how you want to power your home. Now is the time to find an energy plan that works for you. Doing that can be a complicated process and, although you can always choose the lowest rate and ignore the fine print, that can come back to bite you in the end. Instead of recommending to pick the first natural gas plan you lay your eyes on, we actually want to help you make an informed decision. Here is what you should look out for in a natural gas plan.
If you live in a gas deregulated area, this means suppliers will offer multiple plans with an often confusing mix of contract lengths and rates.
What Is Gas Deregulation?
In a deregulated gas industry, consumers have the right to choose which Retail Electricity Provider (REP) they want to provide their service. However, consumers are always free to get their energy supply from the state-appointed utility company.
The most important part about choosing a natural gas plan, be it from an Alberta power company or anywhere else you may be based, is in understanding that you’re not just choosing a gas rate, you’re investing in a gas plan. However, prior to choosing any company, you should check the public utility commission website for the list of all the authorized and registered natural gas suppliers in your area.
1. Consider the Length of the Contract
This is a tricky one. Most contract lengths are between one and two years. A long-term plan will lock in a rate that is valid for the entire duration of the contract. If you find a bargain rate, signing for a long-term plan can be a great deal for you. However, if the rates of natural gas go down, you will be stuck paying higher prices for months.
2. Consider Your Monthly Gas Usage
The best way to know which plan will work for you is by keeping track of your past energy consumption. Take out previous bills and calculate your average monthly usage. Once you know that, go and review each natural gas plan. Focus on the details — are there rate increases if you go over certain usage or do they make you pay a minimum use fee? These things matter when you’re selecting a natural gas plan.
3. Consider the Special Plan Features (if any)
Some, not all, natural gas suppliers include special features in their plans that bring extra value to their offering. Of course, the rate is the main determinant, but other perks should be considered, such as military and veteran discounts, reward incentive plans, charitable contributions, and much more.
4. Understand the Rates
While you have no control over regulated utility fees, you have some level of flexibility with the energy supply fees you also have to pay. Generally speaking, the supply rates that you are charged are closely determined by changes and predictions in the fluctuating price of energy. The most common ones are:
- Fixed Rates — these allow you to keep a set rate per kWh that will not change throughout the duration of the contract.
- Variable Rates — Contrary to fixed rates, the rate you pay here will depend on how the market fluctuates. This is a double-edged sword because just as you can take advantage of market lows, you might also have to pay more in periods of increased demand.
- Indexed Rates — those are calculated using a mathematical formula and the commodity index. Make sure that you understand the formula prior to signing a plan with indexed rates.
- Time-of-use Rates — With these, you pay different rates for certain times of the day (or week). For example, you might have a much lower rate at night, and consumers can benefit by doing the energy-intensive chores, like laundry, at this time. You can always ask the Alberta power company to provide more details about the plan that you’re considering for the exact times and rates if they are not initially specified.
- Flat Rates — Here, you pay the same amount of money each month. These plans usually require the usage history of the customer in order to establish an accurate plan rate.
We hope these tips and clarifications helped you in making a more informed decision for the natural gas plan your household needs.