Fixed-Rate plan: With a fixed-rate plan, you’ll lock in an electricity rate for the term of your contract. The most common term lengths are six ,12, and 24 months. Most fixed-rate plans charge customers an early termination fee if they switch providers before their contract expires, but your electricity rate will stay stable through the seasons. On the other hand, you may miss out on lower bills from a downturn in energy prices. If the price stability of a fixed-rate plan seems like the best option for you, lock in your electricity rate with Direct Energy’sFree Weekends  plan, which provides free electricity on weekends from 6 p.m. on Friday to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.

Not understanding the system, I overpaid — but I quickly grew tired of that. I decided to educate myself. Eventually, I figured out a system. My Watchdog Nation Guide to Electricity Savings is built on the idea that companies should be judged two ways — by lowest rate and by company reputation. When the stars align, the right company is obvious. (Note: This doesn’t apply to customers in mandatory electricity co-ops or municipal-owned utilities.)

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.

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