With the holiday season starting, everyone could use some extra money in their pockets. What many people may not realize is that they can potentially save hundreds of dollars per year just by shopping around for a lower price on their electric or natural gas service.

It's true.  In many states -- like Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia and more than a dozen others -- the supply of electricity and/or natural gas is no longer a monopoly.  You can now choose among competing energy suppliers offering lower rates, just like you can shop for long distance service, cellular service, and internet service.

Your local utility will still deliver your energy supply over its pipes and wires, with no change in service or reliability.  The only thing that changes is that you are buying supply directly from a competing supplier offering a low rate, instead of buying supply through the utility, which nowadays acts as a middle-man, as the utility no longer owns power plants and it doesn't produce power itself anymore.

The savings available by shopping for a competing energy supplier can really add up.  Although savings will vary by state, using the power of competition to find the lowest energy rate can easily save residential customers over $100 annually.

The best part is that these savings don't take a lot of time or effort.

Consider the example of the Philadelphia area, and residential electric customers served by PECO.  PECO's electricity supply rate (the Price to Compare) will be 9.77 cents per kWh starting December 1. Competing energy suppliers are offering electric rates for residential customers at PECO as low as the mid 7-cent range. For an average customer using 700 kWh per month, switching to a low rate in the mid 7-cent range could save customers about $14 per month, or over $150 annually.