7. Pick your poison. Deeper in the website you see a search box along the left side. Under “Plan Type,” a recommended pick is fixed, but you can also choose a variable or an indexed market rate. (The Watchdog likes fixed since market conditions can grow volatile.) Under “Price,” type in a range from 4 cents to 12 cents. That’s a good spread. Pick a contract length. Fill out the other boxes. Then hit “Refresh Results” on the bottom. Keep trying different combinations to see what the prices are that day. They change often.
For example, shoppers for Texas electricity plans in the 77494 ZIP code in Katy, TX, could find 12-month plans for 6.8 cents/kWh in February; by June, electricity rates had increased 27 percent to 9.3 cents/kWh. As of early September, 12-month plans were up again, to 9.9 cents/kWh – a 6.5 percent hike from June and a 46 percent increase just since February.
8. Study the results. For the selection cited above, several dozen companies recently offered rates in that range. Remember that the lowest rates could come from a company with a poor reputation, but more on that later. Contract lengths varied from one to 36 months. Each service plan comes with links to “Terms of Service,” “Facts Sheet,” “Signup” and “Special Terms.” When you click on these, you learn the nitty-gritty details. Many companies have minimums about the amount of power you must use, or you pay more. Carefully look for language about other fees.
In environmental impact, results are mixed. With the ability to invest profits to satisfy further energy demand, producers like TXU are proposing eleven new coal-fired powerplants. Coal powerplants are cheaper than natural gas-fired powerplants, but produce more pollution. When the private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the Texas Pacific Group announced the take-over of TXU, the company which was known for charging the highest rates in the state and were losing customers, they called off plans for eight of the coal plants. TXU had invested more heavily in the other three. A few weeks later the buyers announced plans for two cleaner IGCC coal plants.
If you’re thinking about looking for a better electricity plan for you, shop and compare retail electricity providers in your area. Our pick is Direct Energy. With plans like Free Weekends and Direct-Your-Plan, an electricity plan tailor-made to your lifestyle, you can find the perfect option for you. Direct Energy customers also benefit from rewards programs like Refer-A-Friend, energy saving insights from Direct Your Energy and access to home services and home protection plans.
CenterPoint Intelligent Energy Solutions LLC, IES, which manages TrueCost, is not the same legal entity as CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp. (CERC) or CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC (CEHE), nor is IES regulated by the Railroad Commission of Texas or the Public Utility Commission of Texas. You do not have to buy products or services from IES in order to continue to receive quality regulated services from CERC or CEHE.
1. Legacy providers no longer rule. Get over the idea that original providers are the only companies that can offer solid, uninterrupted service. And don’t believe the fallacy that customers of legacy providers get serviced first when power goes out. Oncor Electric Delivery is responsible for maintaining the transmission system. Everybody uses Oncor to handle repairs in our region.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average household in Texas uses about 15,000 kWh of electricity per year — 26 percent more than the national average, “but similar to the amount used in neighboring states.” That said, the only way to know your personal average energy consumption is by looking at your electricity bills over the course of a year (you want to accommodate all weather conditions) and understanding both your overall usage, as well as if you use more or less during certain months.
Fixed-rate plans: Fixed-rate plans give customers more stability for their monthly energy bills because the rate a customer signs up with is the rate he or she pays for the length of the plan’s contract. Most fluctuation comes with usage, though transmission and delivery charges and local fees also can change.. Because a fixed-rate plan sometimes spans two-three years, these plans often require a customer credit check and can include early cancellation fees. Fixed-rate plans, because of the continuing market volatility, probably are the best choice for many consumers.
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.
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.
In this free market competing electricity retailers buy electricity wholesale from private power generators to sell at retail to around 85% of Texas residents. The partnership between generators and retailers is governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which attempts to balance the power grid’s electricity supply and demand by purchasing small amounts of electricity at 15-minute intervals throughout the day.