Recently, several retail electricity suppliers and brokers have begun incorporating the words “power to choose” in online advertising, web URLs, and web content that is indexed by search engines. This could skew the search results for consumers entering the term “power to choose,” directing them to websites run by brokers and suppliers rather than by the PUCT.
Last week, The Dallas Morning News’ The Watchdog published an article exposing deceptive practices by Texas energy brokers and retail electric providers. The article talks of how these companies have attempted to lure buyers with deceptive 1-cent per kWh offers and websites that appear to be knockoffs of the public utility commission’s Power to Choose.
The complaints filed against providers aren't a perfect mirror of the J.D. Power customer satisfactions scores. Just Energy, which earned only two J.D. Power Circles and earned the second-lowest score, had only 21 complaints recorded with the Public Utility Commission. But it's helpful to view these complaints in aggregate: Over 50 percent of the 1,119 total complaints fall under "billing" — another reason to seek out a provider with high customer satisfaction in that area in particular.
One of the newest and most exciting things we’ve introduced into the market is a strategic partnership with Amazon, allowing us to offer customers in Texas new fixed-rate electricity plans that include an Amazon Echo Dot. Our Power on Command and Weekends on Command plans offer protection from seasonal price fluctuations, plus an Echo Dot to manage all your smart home needs. Our Alexa Skill adds even more convenience, giving you the power to access and manage your Direct Energy account using voice commands.
And just like with any plan, it’s worth it to do the math to see how different scenarios will affect your bill. Take, for example, a home in Sweetwater that uses about 1,000 kWh of energy per month, and is interested in the Texas Essentials 12 plan. Zero percent renewable energy is the cheapest option — but by committing to a $5 monthly charge for its 100 percent “JustGreen” option, it’s actually cheaper than the 60 percent hybrid renewable option.
The local electric company is the utility – that’s the company who owns the infrastructure, including the poles and power lines that deliver electricity to your home. They are who you call if your power goes out or there's an emergency. But in almost every city in Texas, you must choose another company to supply that energy, called a Retail Electric Provider (REP). These REPs, like Spark Energy, allow you to choose electricity plans that offer competitive prices and plans to meet your needs.
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.
When you use our rate comparison process, providers know that they are competing to win your business. Consequently, they offer cheap electric rates in hopes of becoming your new Texas electricity company. This benefits both you and the provider you select. You receive a cheap electric rate and the plan of your choice, and the provider adds another satisfied customer.
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.
You’re popular. Use that to your advantage. When you sign up with Bounce Energy, you get a unique referral code when you login to your MyAccount. Share your code over email, put it on Facebook, take out a billboard. For every person who signs up with your code, you’ll get a $50 bill credit. No limits. And your buddies who sign up get a $50 bill credit, too. Being friendly saves!
The Public Utility Commission (PUC) has a website to help you find and compare all the electricity plans and providers in your area. Visit www.powertochoose.org or call 866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839). You can filter your options based on your usage, your preferred plan type, and several other factors. Once you’ve chosen the retail electricity provider that best suits your needs, you can sign up directly from their website.
Another positive environmental impact is the effect of higher energy prices on consumer choices, similar to the US market trend toward more fuel-efficient cars. As electric bills have risen, residents are reducing their electrical usage by using more moderate thermostat settings, installing insulation, installing solar screens, and other such activities. Texas utilities (such as Austin Energy) are also installing advanced electricity meters that may one day enable variable pricing based on the time of day. This would permit energy customers to save money by further tailoring their consumption based on whether it occurred during the peak demand period (high cost/high pollution) or the off-peak (night time).
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