Best Ways to Find Utility Data, Compared
When it comes to finding utility data, there are a number of methods at your disposal. We’re not going to suggest that any of them is completely wrong, but some of the methods are certainly better than others.
You essentially have three places to find utility rate data. And you have seven ways to decide which of these three methods is best for you.
Three sources of utility rate data
- State public regulatory websites
- Utility websites
- Utility rate databases
Seven ways to measure the suitability of each source
- Accuracy: How correct the data is
- Timeliness: How up to date the data is
- Ease: How easy the data is to find
- Time: Time required to find what you want
- Use: How easy the data is to use once found
- Expertise: Level of expertise needed to make sense of the data once you find it
- Cost: How much you must spend to use the source
Let’s look at each source of utility rate data in turn, and examine how they compare with each other.
Good: State Public Regulatory Websites
We’ll start with state public regulatory websites because they are a common source for utility rate data. Each state in the US has a public utility commission that regulates and publishes utility rates.
Accuracy: The level of accuracy of utility rate data found on state public regulatory websites is high, the highest it can be since the regulatory body is the governing source of rate information.
Timeliness: Utility rate data on these sites is also always the most up to date data you can find.
Ease: How easy utility rate data is to find on state public regulatory websites depends on the state. Some states make their websites easy to browse and search. They have excellent navigation, are clearly laid out, and make utility rates easy to find. Other states make the job a wee bit more difficult.
One thing to note about these public websites is that each state uses different terms to describe the same thing, gives fields for the same thing different labels, and offers a mix of fields for performing searches. One state website lets you search by utility name, for example, but not by type of document, while another state website lets you search for both.
Time: The time required to find the utility rates you are looking for depends to a large degree on how easy the site is to browse and search. The more intuitive the site, and the more search options it offers, the less time you require to find the data you need.
Use: State public regulatory websites display utility rates in a Word document or PDF that may feature multiple tables throughout. They never offer this data in a searchable database. This makes the data less easy to use than the data you find in utility rate databases.
Expertise: Finding utility rates in Word documents and PDFs requires a high level of skill. You must review documents thoroughly, deciphering each source individually. And you must know when you have found what you are looking for.
Cost: The cost of finding utility rate data on state public regulatory websites is affordable because the data is always freely available.
Better: Utility Websites
Every electric utility and every gas utility has a website. On these websites each utility publishes their utility rates. Finding these rates is typically easier than it is on state public regulatory websites, but not as easy as it is on utility rate databases.
Accuracy: The level of accuracy of utility rate data found on utility websites is high.
Timeliness: This varies with each utility. It depends on how often each utility updates its website. Some utility websites are always up to date while others are a few days or even weeks behind.
Ease: How easy utility rate data is to find on utility websites depends on the utility. Some utilities work hard to make their websites user-friendly, easy to navigate and easy to search. Their navigation menus are intuitive, their pages are well designed, and they make their utility rates easy to locate. Other utilities, on the other hand, make your job more difficult.
One thing to note about utility websites is that they vary by utility. If you are searching multiple utility websites, don’t be surprised to discover that utilities use different terms to describe the same thing, and name fields for the same thing differently. This makes ease of use a challenge for multiple-utility searches.
Time: The time you must expend looking for and finding what you want depends on how well laid out the website is, how intuitive their navigation is, and how robust their search function is.
Use: Utility websites also display their utility rates in a Word document or PDFs that may feature multiple tables throughout. They never offer this data in a searchable database. This makes the data less easy to use than the data you find in utility rate databases.
Expertise: Finding utility rates in Word documents and PDFs requires a high level of skill. You can’t just enter a search term and hit search. You must look over an entire document from top to bottom—and know what you are looking for.
Cost: The cost of using a utility websites is also affordable, since there is no charge.
Best: Utility Rate Databases
The best option for finding accurate and up-to-date electric and gas utility rates quickly and easily is utility rate databases. These databases are compiled by companies in the private sector that gather, standardize and display utility rate data in searchable databases for a fee, typically a monthly subscription.
Accuracy: The utility rate data you find in these databases depends on the database vendor. Some companies are more strict with their quality control and data verification practices than others. Some firms, such as RateAcuity, offer rate schedule accuracy stats of 99.99%. Other databases, not so much.
Timeliness: How up to date the electric and gas tariffs are in each database depends on the company behind the database. That said, utility rate databases tend to be up to date.
Ease: Utility rate databases offer the greatest ease of use of all three methods. These databases are designed from the ground up for searching, not browsing. They typically offer a standard interface for the entire country, with no variance by state or utility. All data is named the same way, all fields are named the same way, and you don’t have to search an entire website to find what you want.
Time: Utility rate databases are the fastest method because they are designed to give you exactly what you are searching for with a few clicks. RateAcuity customers tell us they save hours per search with our utility rate database compared with the other two methods.
Use: The data you find when using a utility rate database is much easier to work with because it comes in a standardized format. If you run a query for electric rates from nine utilities, for example, and if those utilities use different terms to describe the same thing, you don’t have to make sense of the results because the people who manage the database standardize all terms.
Utility rate databases also feature reports with standardized layouts. Regardless of how and where state public regulatory websites and utilities present their information on their websites, utility rate databases like RateAcuity always put the same sections in the same place for each report. You don’t have to hunt. You will always find a section of the report data that is for fixed monthly charges, for example, and another section that shows usage based charges.
The data you find when using a utility rate database is also easier to use because it comes in a digital table format. You can download data as Excel files or integrate it with your back-end office systems using a simple API.
Expertise: The level of expertise you need to understand data from a utility rate database is also the lowest of the three methods because all data from all sources is in a standard format that minimizes the need for translation or interpretation.
Cost: Of the three methods, only this one involves a cost. But you are wise to compare that cost against the return on your investment ROI, since the best utility rate databases save you a great deal of time. The time your staff are wasting on searches can be put to better use on tasks that add value and drive revenue.
If you need to gather electricity or natural gas rates or compare energy tariffs in a convenient, accurate manner, and if you place a value on your time, consider investing in a utility rate database like RateAcuity. Our electricity and natural gas rate database provides on-demand nationwide electric and gas rate data. You make decisions without the hours of labor it takes to locate information using other methods. View our datasheet, or start your free trial.