Shop wisely for electricity, gas

Letter writer Joel Bright did consumers a service by highlighting the value of shopping for electricity and natural gas service from the many competitive energy providers active in Maryland ("Consumers should shop around for the best gas and electricity rates," Aug. 10).

While there are significant opportunities for consumers to capture value in terms of price, there are many other factors to weigh when considering competitive energy supply offerings. In a competitive market like Maryland's, energy suppliers vie for customers in terms of price, but also by seeking to develop more attractive product offerings that better meet customers' needs than the utility's one-size-fits-all default energy supply service.

For instance, customers who want their energy use to reflect their environmental preferences can elect to purchase "green" power supporting clean energy resources. Other value-added products available from competitive energy providers include fixed-price offerings that provide customers with price certainty, home warranty protection plans, HVAC installation, weatherization and energy efficiency services.

In a robust competitive market customers can shop based on any one or a variety of factors that are most important to them. Each customer gets the power to decide if they want to shop based on price, green offers, value-added products or a combination of factors. This is an inherent strength of the competitive retail energy market which acts as an engine of innovation creating value for consumers unattainable from traditional or default utility service.

Robert J. Barkanic, Allentown, Pa.

The writer is chair of the Maryland Electricity Caucus of the Retail Energy Supply Association.

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