GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

Purchasing electricity

FrankFulton | Posted in General Questions on

Exploring utility options outside the local utility:

Where do you purchase electricity? What is the cheapest commercial/non-solar source?

Thank you.

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    In most regions of the U.S., residential customers can't choose their electric utility. A utility usually has a government-regulated local monopoly. That said, some large commercial customers may be able to negotiate a deal that allows the customer to choose their electricity provider.

    If you are talking about an off-grid situation, "non-solar" electricity can be generated by a diesel generator, propane-fired generator, natural-gas-fired generator, or gasoline-fired generator. It's also possible to make electricity with a hydro system or wind turbine. Determining which option is cheapest depends on many factors, including fuel costs and location.

  2. FrankFulton | | #2

    Martin, Thanks. Here in Maryland, utilities compete for customers - several of the largest are BGE, Constellation, and North American Power, for eg. I'm seeking recommendations on co-ops or other buying channels.

  3. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #3

    It's important to be specific about your location, since options will vary by location.

  4. FrankFulton | | #4

    Dana, We are near Baltimore. How does that help? Thank you.

  5. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #5

    In Baltimore there is even some Community Solar options to consider, if solar is on your pallette. (What is the reasoning behind the non-solar stipulation? Cost?)

    Are you a commercial ratepayer, or is the "commercial" in "...commercial/non-solar source..." referring to the status of the electricity supplier?

  6. FrankFulton | | #6

    We'd love to have solar - we had a walkthrough from a solar vendor, and even though our house faces South, the tree cover renders solar essentially unfeasible. Based on his estimates, we could generate enough electricity for 1.5-2 months per year, with a 15-year payback on the panels. (And the panels would end up with heavy leaf fall 2x/year, and needing to be cleaned.) We'd love to do it, but I believe we have bigger opportunities.
    So, I was simply seeking "lessons learned" re: finding best electricity rates from the vendors or a co-op.

  7. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #7

    The structure of deals with community solar programs vary- some are a bit like leasing a fraction of the panels in the project, others are more like outright purchase, still others more like a power purchase agreements. I'm not sure about the specifics of community solar in MD, but there ARE projects in your area.(See the link in my prior post.)

  8. marianelson | | #8

    Electricity supply differs by area so better can use solar energy to avoid your problem...

  9. FrankFulton | | #9

    We agree: would prefer to use solar.

    But I must not have been clear: the heavy tree cover over our house would render solar very inefficient, perhaps 60% at best (and worse in some months) by estimate of first installer we had out. For example, the south facing roof has algae in places from lack of sunlight. Are you suggesting to pursue solar anyway?

    Seems no one can offer experience on shopping for electricity, so I will continue to research.


  10. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #10

    Dana was suggesting that you purchase electricity from a utility that provides electricity from a community PV facility. The solar panels wouldn't be on your roof; they would be at a utility-owned facility.

  11. FrankFulton | | #11

    A-ha! Thank you, will explore.

  12. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #12

    It's almost never the utility that has community solar project. They are almost always dependently owned operations, often owned by eligible ratepayers who purchase shares in the project, but there are multiple other ownership and financial models in use. In most states that have net-metering community solar owners / subscribers /lease-holders get "virtual net metering", deducting the power output directly from their retail bill.

    The details vary by project and state regulations, and are often very geographically bounded, either by political boundary structures (counties, city ,etc), but in some instances it's a matter of which side of the substation you are on relative to the community solar project. (If you're on the same feeder or same side of the substation as the project, the amount of grid infrastructure used getting the power to your house is lower.)

    Maryland seems supportive of community solar projects, but it's up to you to chase down which projects you are even eligible for, and the structure of the deals offered by each.

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |