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ENERGY SERVICE PROVIDERS ARE LISTED BY THE DOZENS on public utility commission Web sites, often with direct links to the companies themselves. Even so, picking out 10 to watch for their commercial and industrial activity isn't an easy task.
There's no reliable volume data. There's no organization rating the services each of these vendors offers. The ESPs themselves are either reticent about disclosing data or overly boastful. There's no ready apples-to-apples comparison of ESPs available for prospective C&I customers. Still, who is who among ESPs is a legitimate question.
This roundup, while in no way comprehensive, offers a look at leading ESPs - some picked for their geographic reach, others for their volume, and some, despite their small size, for the buzz their offerings have created in the marketplace among their peers and customers.
Chasing Margin, Not Share
AllEnergy Marketing Co. LLC, Waltham, Mass.
Ownership: A New England Electric System business unit.
Employees: 119, working in five New England states and New Jersey.
Business Volume: $70 million; includes natural gas.
Goal: To be profitable, not necessarily through market share.
Largest Customers: Would not disclose, but has less than 10 electric C&I customers.
Competitors: Exelon, Select Energy.
What Defines the Company: Selectivity in targeting power markets.
Company/Product Sketch: John H. Dickson, president and COO, says bluntly that his company is "trying to make money."
"I think that's one of the things you have to consider when you're looking at companies in this business," he says. "Are you in buying market share or are you in trying to make a profitable business? We could be selling a lot of electricity, as some competitors, if we want to buy market share and sell it at a loss."
Meanwhile, the company has found it can sell gas at a margin. It's building gas-side relationships, hoping later to sell electricity to those customers.
" We've been in business, probably actively only a year and we've got 15,000 [gas and electric residential and C&I] customers," says Dickson. "If we could keep that pace up and do it profitably, I think we'd be very comfortable."
He notes that the terrible margins have driven even the large players out of the New England market.
When possible, AllEnergy will win customers with three popular products: WeatherProof bill, PowerG and ReGen. The first product works like a budget bill, but there's no true up. The customer is told at the beginning of the heating season what the bill will be for the year. The company calculates the value of the hedge and lays off that risk. The Regen product builds off a utility's standard offer. AllEnergy contracts with a renewable energy supplier to build a new plant. The power is sold into the grid and AllEnergy makes up the difference between the sale price and the customer's contract price.
Eyeing the Big Guns
Commonwealth Energy Corp., Tustin, Calif.
Ownership: President/CEO Frederick M. Bloom is the primary, but less than majority, shareholder. There are 500 private shareholders.
Employees: 120, active in California, although the company is registered as an ESP in Rhode Island