Minimum Usage Fees: Often set at or around 1,000 kWh/month, these fees mean you’ll always pay for at least that amount — even if you only use, say, 800 kWh of electricity some months. It sounds nasty, but it’s only something to be concerned about if your electricity bills historically show you hover right around that minimum use threshold. If you’re electricity use always exceeds that amount, it’s like it’s not even there.
Due to the increased usage of natural gas immediately after deregulation, new-era energy tools such as wind power and smart-grid technology were greatly aided. Texas' first "renewable portfolio standard" — or requirement that the state's utilities get a certain amount of their power from renewable energy like wind — was signed into law in 1999, as part of the same legislation that deregulated the electric market.
As a renter, it’s important to know approximately how much electricity you will use each month in order to get the best deal on electricity. Some electricity plans are cheaper for lower energy usage customers, while other plans are designed with high usage customers in mind. If you’re just moving into an apartment, ask your leasing agent to provide you with historic kWh usage information for your specific unit if possible.
As you choose your energy plan, you might want to consider a variable-rate plan. The wholesale price for electricity changes constantly and a variable rate allows you to take advantage of its ups and downs. When prices are low, your electricity rate can drop to reflect the market change. On the other hand, electricity prices can rise, causing you to pay a higher rate.
Likewise, if you opt for a plan like our StarTex Power example, but in some months only hit 990 kWh of energy use, the $35 discount for cresting $1,000 kWh won't apply — and your bill is going to show it. Picking the right plan for you requires two things: an intimate knowledge of your home’s typical energy use, and a critical eye on any plan’s fine print.
Final switch tips. When you make your final selection, don’t call your current electricity provider to cancel. Sign up with the new company only. Try to sign up at least five to seven days before your plan expires so the overlap between the two billing cycles is negligible. Some people switch too late and pay higher prices during the transition. If you have a smart meter, the state rule is you must be switched within 48 hours. But five to seven days is safer.
Electricity rates in Texas are not fixed. Your rate can vary greatly depending on your usage and your electric plan. Some plans have relatively flat rates, while others can be all over the place. This means that you could end up paying 7¢ for 999 kWhs and 8.5¢ for 1001 kWhs. That would be a 16% increase because you microwaved a few potatoes. Learn more on the different plan types here.