New Competition for PSEG

A new energy company is offering East Hampton customers an alternative to purchasing their electricity and gas from PSEG-Long Island.

Agera will provide electricity to commercial customers here at rates that will vary according to the energy market but that are projected to remain lower per kilowatt hour than PSEG’s, a representative of the Westchester company said this week.

While those who sign on to the new energy company for electricity will be purchasing their power from Agera, the final delivery of energy from substations to customers’ properties will use infrastructure controlled by PSEG, so customers will still pay a delivery charge to PSEG. Electric bills already reflect two separate fees, for kilowatt hours of electricity and for its delivery.

Agera has been in business for four years, Peter Novielli, a product specialist with the company, said this week. It supplies energy in 14 states and to more than 100 utility companies, including Con Edison in New York City.

It got off the ground in New York after state lawmakers deregulated the electricity and gas market, allowing independent power producers to enter the market and giving consumers a choice of where to purchase their electricity and gas.

The state’s local utilities, such as PSEG-Long Island, remain responsible for operating distribution and transmission systems that deliver electric and natural gas service. However, deregulation allows retail energy suppliers to compete with the utilities to provide the electricity and natural gas.

But in East Hampton, PSEG-Long Island has been the only option until now. Mr. Novielli said Agera has been soliciting East Hampton customers since early this year, including through recent emails. 

“We are always trying to stay as competitive as possible,” he said. “We are normally, on an average, two to four cents lower [per kilowatt hour] than the utility companies.”

In a recent solicitation email, Agera contrasted its per-kilowatt-hour fees with those charged by PSEG. In January, for instance, PSEG charged 10.8 cents, and Agera, 7.03 cents. In May, PSEG’s price was 10.9 cents per kilowatt hour, and Agera’s 6.9 cents. And in July, when PSEG-Long Island charged 10.4 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the email, Agera charged 7.7 cents.

Those who wish to switch over to Agera must do so in advance for an upcoming month. They are guaranteed a particular rate for only up to two months; after that it is subject to change. Customers may opt out at any time with no cancellation fee.

The electricity provided by Agera comes from both renewable sources (wind) and from traditional fossil fuel plants. Customers can choose to purchase 100-percent wind power, or a combination of energy from wind and fossil fuels, at commensurately higher rates.

Agera also provides natural gas, through the in-ground pipelines, to residences or businesses.  The company has a “large number” of customers in New York State, Mr. Novielli said, and about 1.8 million nationwide.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., an outspoken critic of PSEG-Long Island and a sponsor of a number of laws aimed at energy consumer protection, said yesterday that competition is welcome.

“Since deregulation, I’ve talked with various people who have talked about trying to provide an alternative to PSEG, none of which have really gotten off the ground,” he said.

The relationship between the Long Island Power Authority, or LIPA, and PSEG-Long Island, said Mr. Thiele, makes PSEG “a private company with a virtual monopoly that has the least oversight and competition of any utility in the country.”

“That does not serve the public well,” he said. “The prospect of competition is something that I think is healthy and, frankly, necessary.”

Whether Agera can make a go of it, given the vicissitudes of the energy market and its large-scale purchasing contracts, remains to be seen, said Mr. Thiele. But, he said, “it’s a really interesting concept. It’s something the consumers should be aware of.”