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More consumers switching electricity suppliers, but good deals are rare

Despite an impending price drop, the number of Massachusetts residents switching from utilities to competitive electric suppliers has continued to rise in the spring.

Figures from the Department of Public Utilities show that more than 29,000 households started buying their electricity from independent companies in April. Currently, more than 600,000 households in Massachusetts get their power from a competitive supplier instead of paying their utility for “basic service,” 50 percent higher than the number a year before.

It’s not clear what type of contracts people signed or how much they are paying for power from competitive suppliers. Consumer advocates have raised concerns that some people don’t realize what they’re signing up for when they choose a competitive supplier, and authorities urged caution last winter as many consumers sought refuge from spiking basic service rates.


The number of good deals also are drying up, according to Andre Ramirez, who created a website for comparing electricity plans with a classmate from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Of more than 140 supply plans his site analyzed last month available for eastern Massachusetts Eversource or National Grid households, only three were likely to save consumers money, Ramirez said.

“For one month it might look like you’re saving 40 percent over National Grid and Eversource, but that might just be for one month,” said Ramirez, a partner at ShopEnergyPlans.

In Massachusetts, electricity bills are split between supply and distribution charges. Supply rates vary depending on what power generation companies charge, and are about to come down from last winter’s price spikes that led so many people to switch to competitive suppliers. Distribution charges go to the utility, which owns the wires, and tend to be more stable.

Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.