Green Energy Options, Explained

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Last week, we talked about why many listeners saw their bills spike this winter. Gerald Norlander, executive director of New York's Utility Project, explains why other listeners didn't, and the options available for customers who want to shop around.

5 Things To Remember When You're Shopping Around for Electricity Suppliers

Gerald Norlander of New York's Utility Project said that using less electricity is the only sure way to lower your bill, but if you want to shop around here's his advice to keep in mind as you consider your options:

  • Fixed-Rate Options

If you sign up for a fixed-rate plan with a third-party supplier, such as Con Ed Solutions, you'll pay the same rate per kWh every month and your bill will vary depending on your use, not changes in price. You won't see major spikes like other customers are seeing this winter.

  • More $ Over Time

But you might be paying more in the long run on these fixed-rate plans. "I wouldn't do it, there's not enough information out there with track records," Norlander said. "None of these energy companies come out and say how they've done, how their customers have done in total over any period of time."

  • If You Choose Green Energy, What Are You Getting?

Some suppliers offer green energy options, but you aren't getting different energy than your neighbor. Customers are getting "the blended input of all generators running" and while you can show your support for renewable energy by signing up, Norlander notes that there's no way to know exactly what you're paying for.

  • Be Wary of ESCOs

You may have been contacted by an ESCO (energy services company) offering an alternative to your current supplier. Some of these offer discounts that are misleading or which expire after a few months, leaving customers with much higher bills than they had before. You can use a bill calculator to check your bill.

  • Utility Oversight

New York State has less consumer protection and oversight on utilities than many other states, and Norlander said this could lead to problems with transparency and rate changes. "We spend less [on oversight] than Iowa, we spend less than one-fifth of what Pennsylvania spends on this function," Norlander said. You can file a complaint with the Public Service Commission about your bill here.



Gerald Norlander

Comments [16]

ellen diamond from Upper Manhattan

Griping aside, seems to me that the salient comment is the one that says: New York State has less consumer protection and oversight on utilities than many other states."
So that tells us what to do: write our State senators and assembly people, notify all local politicians you can think of and definitely report your bill spike to the Public Service Commission. Then write a letter to Governor Cuomo asking why this most basic public service, our utilities, are so unprotected!

Mar. 13 2014 08:13 PM

Politicians, even this one, prevaricate so often that even when what they promise actually occurs no one connects it to the goal the politician had promised. Why are all these energy prices rising?

As a wise man one said, "Icky Bo Bo."

Feb. 26 2014 12:44 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I have my utilities included in my rent, & I *still* get calls offering to lower my Con Ed bill. Since I don't have a separate power bill, they're obviously not from Con Ed.

Feb. 25 2014 11:11 AM

OOOOOP!! Here's where ALL the $$ goes!!!


Mr. Burke joined Con Edison, a utility provider of electric, gas and steam services, in 1973 and has held positions of increasing responsibility in system planning, engineering, law, nuclear power, construction, and corporate planning. He served as Senior Vice President from July 1998 to July 1999, with responsibility for customer service and for Con Edisons electric transmission and distribution systems. In 1999, Mr. Burke was elected President of Orange & Rockland Utilities, Inc., a subsidiary of Con Edison. He was elected President and Chief Operating Officer of Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. in 2000 and elected Chief Executive Officer in 2005. Mr. Burke was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Con Edison in 2005, and elected Chairman in 2006. In addition, Mr. Burke is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Consolidated Edison of New York, Inc. and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Orange & Rockland Utilities, Inc., both of which are affiliates of Con Edison. Areas of Relevant Experience: Energy production and distribution; energy efficiency; alternative sources of energy; engineering and construction; development of new service offerings; government regulation.

Consolidated Edison, Inc.

Compensation for 2012
Salary $1,214,042
Bonus $315,400
Restricted stock awards $4,179,060
All other compensation $138,960
Non-equity incentive plan compensation $1,577,200
Change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings $7,414,192

TOTAL COMPENSATION $14,838,854 (!!!)



Feb. 25 2014 10:55 AM
Ellen from Williamsburg

My portion of the electric bill is usually around $125 - $150 this time of year. Last month, my portion was $578.00.

Feb. 25 2014 10:54 AM
Naomi from Brooklyn

ESCOs are not all bad actors. Some of us represent ourselves as ESCOs and offer you fixed rates in an otherwise variable (as you can see from your current outrageous bills) market.

Had any of you signed up with an ESCO that offered you a lower supply charge at a fixed rate, you would be safe from the volatility you are currently experiencing.

There are crooks in every profession. They make it hard for honest ESCOs who can save you money over the course of your contract.

Feb. 25 2014 10:54 AM

Let's talk about the ROTTING, 100 year old infrastructure!!


We should have a reliable, modern, super-conducting system that doesn't FAIL at the drop of a hat!

Brown outs???!! Black outs?!?? WTF?

Feb. 25 2014 10:52 AM

Let's talk about the EXTORTION that takes place when one happens to send in a payment SLIGHTLY past the due date (NOT habitual deadbeat customers. NOT 30, 60 days past) a couple of months in a row.


"Con" indeed!

Feb. 25 2014 10:48 AM
Miscellaneous from NYC

I have had the same problem as the current caller. A person came into our office and said that she was working with Con Ed and on behalf of the Public Service Commission to make sure that Con Ed was charging the correct rates. She checked a couple of our bills and showed me where the rates were incorrect. She had me sign a document that I thought was just to authorize Con Ed to reduce the rate. When I got a confirmation e-mail a short while later, I realized that she had signed me up with a third party supplier. I called the company immediately to get us disconnected and then I called Con Ed. Con Ed told me to call the Public Service Commission. I went on line and filled out a complaint form about them. Con Ed has now confirmed that the switch to the new company was NOT made as a result of my calling them immediately.

This woman never said she was from a Con Ed competitor. Never came into my office with a business card. This is clearly a deceptive practice and is probably illegal. If it happens to you, you can go to and fill out a complaint form and they will address this.

Feb. 25 2014 10:45 AM
Lenore from Manhattan

I was fished--spiked--what is the correct word?--by one of these companies. That is, I was switched to another company without asking to be switched, and then got a letter congratulating me for signing up with this other company. I called Con Ed and got it taken off, but I would never sign up with any of those others.

Feb. 25 2014 10:41 AM

Kiwi Energy just showed up at my house yesterday misrepresenting themselves as Con Ed.

Feb. 25 2014 10:40 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Service question: If many Con Ed customers only pay half their inflated bills this month, will that affect service?

Feb. 25 2014 10:38 AM

What can we do to encourage Green Energy?

Feb. 25 2014 10:37 AM
Ellen from Williamsburg

My portion of the electric bill is usually around $125 - $150 this time of year. Last month, my portion was $578.00.

Feb. 25 2014 10:32 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

I'm sick of getting CON(n)ED by Con Ed. My latest bill is more than double the usual rate!

Feb. 25 2014 10:31 AM

What is there to explain???

We (ConEd victims) pay more than anyone else in the ENTIRE NATION (with the exception of Hawaii and Block Island - imagine getting power to those locations...)!!! …and, not by a little…50% MORE THAN THE REST OF THE COUNTRY!!!

Is it any coincidence that it's called "Con" Ed??

Feb. 25 2014 10:11 AM

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