As a renter, it’s important to know approximately how much electricity you will use each month in order to get the best deal on electricity. Some electricity plans are cheaper for lower energy usage customers, while other plans are designed with high usage customers in mind. If you’re just moving into an apartment, ask your leasing agent to provide you with historic kWh usage information for your specific unit if possible.
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.
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.
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).
As you choose your energy plan, you might want to consider a variable-rate plan. The wholesale price for electricity changes constantly and a variable rate allows you to take advantage of its ups and downs. When prices are low, your electricity rate can drop to reflect the market change. On the other hand, electricity prices can rise, causing you to pay a higher rate.
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.
You may have noticed a lot of electric companies offering a ton of plans and services. But not all light companies in Texas are created equal. So which one is right for you? At Amigo Energy, we want you to trust that you’re getting a custom energy plan at a good price—not just a quick fix that’ll cost you more down the road. In fact, JD Power gave us four out of five stars for pricing, beating out a ton of other large retail electricity providers.4
Some good news: According to J.D. Power’s 2016 survey on retail electric providers (its most current survey of the space), Texas has the highest overall satisfaction with retail electric providers out of any state. And because rates, plans, and offers can be so similar from provider to provider, customer satisfaction scores are a great way to break a tie. Think of it like choosing who to hire when you have two candidates with similar resumes — you’re going to pick the person with the glowing references.
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.
Oncor, the state’s largest distribution utility which covers Dallas, Fort Worth and much of North Texas, has already agreed to pass all of the millions of dollars of expected tax savings along to consumers. Oncor agreed to pass the savings along to customers as part of a rate review which is a formal process in which the PUC reviews the appropriateness of rates being charged by the utility. No exact details have been determined with respect to how the savings will be passed along. The rate review was actually completed before the tax reform bill was passed but there was a commitment in principle to passing along the savings. It’s not yet know exactly how much Oncor will save from the lower corporate tax rates but with a $245 million tax bill in 2017 future saving are likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
Since the Texas electricity market opened to competition in 2002, many Texas residents have had the opportunity to choose their own electricity provider. Instead of relying on their local utility to provide them with electricity, most Texans can choose from a variety of competitive providers, allowing them to shop around for the perfect electricity plan for their homes and lifestyles.
Minimum Usage Fees: Often set at or around 1,000 kWh/month, these fees mean you’ll always pay for at least that amount — even if you only use, say, 800 kWh of electricity some months. It sounds nasty, but it’s only something to be concerned about if your electricity bills historically show you hover right around that minimum use threshold. If you’re electricity use always exceeds that amount, it’s like it’s not even there.
Fixed-Rate Plans: These plans are steady and predictable; the price per kWh you sign up for will remain that same for the entirety of your contract. (The only changes in your bill will be from forces outside of your REP's control, like changes in TDU fees, or changes in federal, state, or local laws.) Often fixed-rate plans will have a slightly higher price per kWh than others, but you're paying for the predictability. They're great if you live by your budget – and even greater if you happen to sign up when rates are low. The fixed-rate plans of our five Texas providers typically started at 12 months, with some extending up to three years, but we spotted a couple from Reliant that offered fixed rates for six month contracts as well.
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.
Texas has electricity consumption of $24 billion a year, the highest among the U.S. states. Its annual consumption is comparable to that of Great Britain and Spain, and if the state were an independent nation, its electricity market would be the 11th largest in the world. Texas produces the most wind electricity in the U.S., but also has the highest Carbon Dioxide Emissions of any state. As of 2012, Texas residential electricity rates ranked 31st in the United States and average monthly residential electric bills in Texas were the 5th highest in the nation.
Since 2002, the majority of Texans have had to choose their own Retail Electric Provider (REP) – the middleman that buys electricity wholesale, then sells it to you, the consumer. According to the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ 2017 report, the Lone Star state is “the national leader in competitive residential, commercial, and industrial offerings,” which means there are well over 200 providers bidding for your attention.
You betcha! Most Texas electricity suppliers offer plans that include a percentage of energy sourced from renewable resources, such as hydro power, wind power and solar power. Some are totally sourced that way. These plans are a great way for Texas energy customers to help the environment without breaking the bank. In addition to green energy plans, many Texas suppliers give customers the option to purchase renewable energy certificates, or RECs, that further offset customers’ carbon emissions. The purchase of RECs also helps fund research and usage of renewable energy sources, so that Texas can stay at the forefront of eco-friendly power technology.