Timing Is Everything

The following is a guest article written by Brad Martin, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Mass Market Sales & Services of Genie Energy:

Small, medium and large business owners and managers can benefit from shopping around for commodities like electricity and natural gas. However, what many fail to consider, is that simply comparing today’s available rate to the utility’s current price to compare, may not be enough of an advantage to look for. Switching away from the utility to a supplier offers a host of rate structure options and terms, affording more control over your energy experience.

Many factors influence cost. Among the variables are some obvious items such as the commodity, geography, utility, status of natural gas reserves, and weather. Other not so obvious factors to the layman are transmission, capacity tags, and load factors. However, contract start date and term length are also critical and should not to be overlooked.

Consider this – Let’s say your business is evaluating a twelve versus eighteen month termed agreement for electricity, with the twelve month term set to end next April. Taking all the current market conditions into consideration, a twelve month rate lock for electricity may be more favorable versus an eighteen month term. Why? The eighteen month term would straddle two summer seasons, and because your total electricity consumption and spend often increases in the summer months (June through August), this could impact the hedge for your supply. On the contrary, if you are looking at an eighteen month natural gas contract beginning in November/December with it ending in the spring – the benefit could be favorable, with the hedge covering only one typically higher consumption winter heating season.

As they say, “…timing is everything…”

While a longer term “set it and forget it strategy” might appeal to some seeking budget certainty and those looking avoid market volatility by flattening out commodity market highs and lows, it should be noted that timing of contract end dates are important to consider. The spring and fall months are considered “shoulder seasons” due to their more mild temperatures. Contracts ending during the shoulder season may provide opportunities to lock in a better rate in the renewal term, since mild temperatures often mean a factor of less demand and better wholesale costs.

No matter how large or small your business, it’s important to weigh the benefits of securing your electricity and natural gas supply from a source other than your local utility company. It can be very much worth it to take a few minutes to shop around. Compare rates, plan structures, terms, and more.

Of course these examples illustrate just a few of the more straightforward scenarios. Your sweet spot could be a ‘typical’ 12/18/24/36 month plan, or it could be a more tailored fixed, index, block and index (Hybrid) or even variable with cap price plan. Some programs may even lead to a reduction in or elimination of peak demand charges.

But until you shop, you may never know.

Keep in mind, while no one can ever predict the future with certainty, it is important to work with a proven broker or supplier that will review your specific historical usage patterns, and provide options based on a true consumption profile.

Own or manage a business that uses energy or know someone who could benefit? Message me to get connected with an energy expert who will provide a complimentary commercial energy analysis with no obligation.

About James Cannon

James Cannon is an experienced hedge fund analyst. He has served on the advisory boards for various different Fortune 500 companies as well as serving as an adjunct professor of finance. James Cannon has written for a variety of Financial Magazines both on and off line. Contact James at james[at]businessdistrict.com