4. Know your current contract terms. Before you shop, know what you already have. (Surprisingly, most people don’t.) What’s your kwh rate? Check your electric bill. It may be higher than what’s available elsewhere. (In Texas, last week it ranged from 4.9 cents to as high as 13.5 cents.) Also call your provider and ask for the date your contract expires. Find out whether your rate is fixed or variable. Start planning a possible switch a month before a contract expires.
One of the benchmarks of a successful free market is the range of choice provided to customers. Choice can be viewed both in terms of the number of firms active in the market as well as the variety of products those firms offer to consumers. In the first decade of retail electric deregulation in Texas, the market experienced dramatic changes in both metrics. In 2002, residential customers in the Dallas-Fort area could choose between 10 retail electric providers offers a total of 11 price plans. By the end of 2012, there were 45 retail electric providers offering 258 different price plans to residential customers in that market. Similar increases in the number of retail electric providers and available plans have been realized in other deregulated electricity market areas with the state.
For example, if you use a small amount of energy each month, you expect to be rewarded — right? Unfortunately, nearly all electricity plans from Texas REPs are advertised as costing more per kWh the less electricity you use. It’s a little like buying in bulk: Providers often discount your bill when you cross certain kWh thresholds. For instance, one 12-month plan from StarTex Power quotes 8.1 cents per kWh for 1,000 kWh a month and 8.8 cents for 2,000 kWh per month, but 12.1 cents for 500 kWh per month. Why the difference? Customers get $35 back each month if they pass 1,000 kWh of use, and another $15 back per month if they cross 2,000 kWh. In this case, using half as much electricity as your neighbor on the same plan wouldn’t get you half the bill.
Power to Choose is a program run by the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Its goal is to protect residents of the state from unfair energy costs and unregulated REPs, as well as develop a strong infrastructure. The program provides an easy to use, online tool that give residents of the state the opportunity to compare rates, plans and other energy options. Keep in mind though, you really need to read the fine print if you decide to use Power to Choose (or any other service, for that matter).
Because of this exemption, it's possible to move throughout the state and live under different rules pertaining to your right to choose energy supply. If you're moving to a deregulated area and are just now experiencing your right to choose an electricity provider, it can be a confusing process. But we can teach you how to switch power companies for a smooth transition. Enter your ZIP code above to determine whether you live in a deregulated area.
The PUC’s mission is to protect customers, foster competition, and promote high-quality infrastructure. In addition to regulating the states electric utilities and implementing legislation, the PUC offers Texas residents assistance in resolving consumer complaints. If you have a complaint with your electricity company you can go to the official PUC website and file an informal complaint.