5 things to consider when choosing an energy supplier
As with any significant business decision, choosing the right business energy supplier requires careful consideration. It is important because every asset that delivers your products or services needs energy—and you want to be paying the best and fairest price for reliable energy.
How much you pay for energy is but one factor (a very important one, of course) in determining from whom you will get your business electricity or gas. You will want to know the products that are offered from a supplier and if they fit how you budget and run your business.
It’s also important to research the supplier’s reputation when it comes to customer service and support. Can you rely on the supplier to satisfactorily answer your questions in a timely manner? Are their fees clearly stated on the contract? Are they open for you to raise issues on billing or other problems you may encounter?
Finally, can the supplier provide insights or deliver programs that help your business become more energy efficient? We explore these considerations in this post.
1. Product offerings that fit your business’ needs
If you are a business located in a state with a deregulated energy market, you can enjoy the freedom of choosing independent energy suppliers who can best provide for your energy needs.
Most energy suppliers offer a range of products to cater to the various needs of their customers. It is important for you, then, to seek out the supplier whose products best line up with your business strategy and budget.
Fixed priced plan
Fixed priced electricity or gas plans are best for you to budget with certainty. These types of plans are low in risk in that you lock a set price you pay per unit of the energy commodity throughout the life of the contract. The one downside to this plan is that you may miss out on savings if energy prices in the market drop.
Flexible/Indexed priced plan
If you can stomach more risk and you want to capitalize on lower energy prices, then a flexible or indexed price plan is the one for you. In this plan, commodity prices are linked with market rates, so the price you pay per unit of energy used changes from month to month. It is an at-times risky endeavor, but it can also earn you savings over the course of the contract.
Combination priced plan
To balance budget certainty and risk, you can opt for a combination priced plan. This involves locking a percentage of your energy load at a fixed price while letting the remaining load be priced according to the market. The percentage you lock in and the percentage you want exposed to market prices are up to you. For example, you can lean towards having greater budget certainty and less risk by locking in a higher percentage of your energy load and letting the remainder be subject to the current commodity prices.
Renewable energy plan
You may have strong considerations into how your energy is supplied or sourced. Increasingly, energy suppliers are developing and offering to clients renewable options to help them meet their sustainability goals and requirements. Businesses in many states and regions can purchase electricity generated through sustainable sources such as solar or wind. In places where sustainable energy is scarce, renewable energy certificates (RECs) are great options, too. RECs represent renewable energy that is purchased to offset the carbon that your business will emit using traditional sources.
Whichever product you choose, it is important that you research the product on offer from the supplier, including its terms, conditions, prices, and the services associated with it. Go online and dig into the supplier’s customer care, help, or FAQ pages. There you will often find answers to at least some of your questions.
2. The service, reputation, and manner of the supplier
Paying cheap energy prices is great, but paying for cheap customer service is not. It is hard to put a price on good, friendly, and responsive customer service, but partnering with an energy supplier who can and will answer your questions, address your concerns, and support your business will save you many headaches in the long run.
Take the time to research the reputation of energy suppliers in your area. Read customer testimonials, or ask around to hear former or current customers of their experiences with a supplier firsthand. Look into how the supplier operates as a company, too. Find out if they support charities or other noteworthy causes, and head to sites like Indeed or Glassdoor to see the opinions of the company’s workplace culture from current or former employees. The values and character of the supplier should be clear to you from these resources.
Issues with energy can happen at any time—not just during working hours. You will want to know that you can contact customer care, an account manager, or a technician at most if not all times of the day. Most suppliers have the traditional phone and e-mail communication channels, but those with exceptional customer service will have an online chat system that is operated by real people. But do not discredit chatbots, or automated response systems, right away. If chatbots are thoughtfully designed, they can provide you with great assistance when you need it.
3. Costs and billings from the supplier are clearly explained
It is important to know what are the energy supply costs and any other fees associated with it from your supplier, as well as how they will bill you and how you can settle these bills.
You want to know exactly what you are paying. Ask the supplier what is included in the quoted contract price, and what is not. This is crucial especially if you are after a flexible or indexed contract—you will need to know which volumes of the energy supply are set at a fixed cost and which are indexed according to the market.
How you will be billed is important to know. Understanding the structure of the bill and when or how frequently you will receive this bill—for example, if all components of the bill come together at once or parts of it are billed separately—will help you anticipate your payments. Keep in mind that taxes and fees linked with the energy supply charge will be included.
What kind of costs should you expect in an energy supply? The below table lists items included in an energy supply about which you can ask your supplier:
4. Ease of bill payments and account management
Most companies these days have a mobile application or an online portal through which you can access your personal account with the business to review historical purchases, manage payments, and explore new products. Your chosen energy supplier ought to provide such a service to you as well.
Find out if the supplier has a mobile application, online customer portal, or both, through which you can manage your energy account. These account management services let you have more control over your business energy. You can review your current plan, pay bills and set up automated payments, check balances, compare and analyze consumption data, and shop for new products.
5. They help you become energy efficient
Reputable energy suppliers offer complementary guidance and programs to help your business be more energy efficient, reducing costs and carbon emissions in the process.
Load management programs such as demand response programs provide you an opportunity to earn revenue and play a role in the efficient running of your electricity grid by adjusting when and how much energy you use during peak load hours. An energy supplier should have insights to share with you on how to best curtail energy during these specific times.
Assets in your business may need upgrades. For example, you can replace old fluorescent tubes with modern, higher-performing models, or your HVAC system needs fixes or upgrades. Ask if your energy supplier can provide assistance to you to get a start on making your workplace more energy efficient.
Finally, find out if the supplier can provide you with regular energy market updates and intelligence. If you have opted for the high risk, high reward indexed priced contract, it will behoove you to have data and market insights including bearish and bullish factors that will affect what you pay for your energy. Ask the supplier if they can regularly equip you with this information throughout your partnership with them.
NGP Americas is ready to help you find your energy supplier
We know that businesses like yours may not have the time or resources to thoroughly vet potential energy suppliers. If you are looking for an energy supplier, Northern Gas and Power Americas can help. Our team of experts know the industry well, and our strong relationships with several electricity and gas suppliers across the country allow us to help businesses like yours procure the best energy supply.
Contact us now to get your next business energy contract.