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What is the Role of the Utility and Retail Energy Provider?

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This article was updated on June 7, 2017

For a long time, only utilities provided energy services to our homes and businesses – not retail energy providers

Consumers would contact the utility company about all things energy, including power outages and billing inquiries. 

However, in recent years, many U.S. states and Canadian provinces have developed competitive markets for electricity and natural gas services. Where this competition currently exists, there are potential savings opportunities for all consumer classes, including residential, commercial and industrial customers. 

The Role of a Utility

The utility – or local distribution company – owns and operates the way electricity or natural gas is delivered to homes and businesses. The infrastructure that brings energy to homes, businesses and industrial facilities is owned by the traditional utility company. While your local utility reads your usage meter and bills you on a monthly basis, the transmission and distribution charges are set by regulators. 

Check out all of our Lightbulb Moments videos here.

Your local utility also handles emergency situations, such as power outages caused by severe weather. When you lose power at your home or business, you should always contact your local utility. 

The Role of a Retail Energy Provider

Energy deregulation gives consumers the power to choose who supplies energy to their home or business. In a deregulated market, a retail energy provider can provide you with a number of benefits, including competitive pricing options, best-in-class customer service and access to the latest cutting-edge technology, such as Panoramic Power.

Check out all of our Lightbulb Moments videos here.

A retail energy provider can also work with you to find "green" energy solutions, including solar power


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Regardless of which company bills you for your energy usage, the reliability and quality of your distribution service is still managed by your local utility company. If you have been contemplating the idea of switching to a competitive energy supplier, then we encourage you to explore your options.

Want to learn more about the difference between a retail energy provider and utility? 

Check out this infographic

Posted: May 18, 2015

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