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.
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.
9. Check out your favorite. After you find a company with a rate and contract length you like, learn more about it. One way is to do an Internet search of the company. Place the company’s name in various searches beside these search terms: scam, rip-off and complaints. If the company has a troubled history, find out before you sign up. If only a few results come up from disgruntled customers, don’t worry. But if there are several dozen, continue with a quick search of the company’s Better Business Bureau record. And then, most important, return to powertochoose.org and below the name of the company, you’ll see “Complaint Scorecard” and “Complaint History.” Click on those links and learn more about the company.
The power to switch is all about knowing your rights as an electric customer. In Texas, the electricity market is deregulated. Instead of only being able to get electricity from the utility and then paying the rates the utility requires, Texas retail electricity providers buy energy from generators at wholesale prices. Providers then compete with each other to offer consumers more options in terms of their electricity plans. Every electricity consumer in Texas' deregulated markets has to choose a retail electricity provider, but once you choose you don't have to stay with that provider forever. You have the power to switch electricity providers to find the best service and the best rates to meet your electric needs.
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.
According to a typical economic theory, prices are optimally determined in a fair and transparent market, and not by a political or academic body. In deregulation of electricity markets, one immediate concern with pricing is that incumbent electricity providers would undercut the prices of new entrants, preventing competition and perpetuating the existing monopoly of providers. Thus, the SB7 bill introduced a phase-in period during which a price floor would be established (for incumbent electricity companies) to prevent this predatory practice, allowing new market entrants to become established. New market entrants could charge a price below the price to beat, but incumbents could not. This period was to last from 2002 to January 1, 2007. As of 2007 Texas investor owned utility affiliates no longer have price to beat tariffs.
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.
In Texas, the average household uses an average of 77 million Btu of electricity per year, which is approximately 14% less than the national average. Breaking these stats down even further shows us that electricity use in the average Texan home is 26% higher than the rest of the United States, however this isn’t much higher than several other states that are closest to Texas. When it comes to cost, the average total household bill per year is $1,801. This amount ranks amongst the highest across America, but other states that typically see soaring temperatures in the summer season aren’t far behind.
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.
Fixed-rate supply plans offer price-protected supply rates for the length of a term agreement. The price per kilowatt hour (kWh) will remain the same throughout your term, even if the market price fluctuates. A fixed-rate supply plan can range from three months to five years, so it’s important to find the term length that works best for your situation.