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Expiring contracts show the need for comparing electricity rates

Probably the most important key to electricity deregulation is not anything about utilities or electricity providers, but about the customers themselves. Residents and businesses themselves must be sure to compare electricity rates both when they initially sign up and when their contract expires.

The Baltimore Sun reports that many people in Maryland are coming toward the end of their first contract with an electricity provider. Given how short a time people have been dealing with electricity deregulation, many are likely to forget entirely that they have made this switch and are likely to simply allow their deal to expire.

"They get mail. They don't open it. They don't look at it," Maryland People's Counsel Paula Carmody told the Sun. "It could be a year, two years or three years later when they get the renewal notice."

Many electricity suppliers offer prices well below the standard service in their initial contracts, but most raise those electricity rates upon renewal. Some of these might be even higher than the base rate, but most are unlikely to be the lowest rate available.

The solution, however, is not to go back to the base rate, but to compare electricity prices once again to keep finding the best prices available, potentially saving as much as 15 percent in Maryland.

The Maryland Public Utility Commission reports that more than 14 percent of residential customers make use of alternative electricity providers at the end of last year.