Twenty bucks compared to a $2,000 bill? Not much to write home about, but hey — it’s free money. And, true, you’ll still get some free money when you use less energy, but rewards only really seem reward-y if you're shelling out big bucks. That same Direct Energy plan only yields about $6 in Plenti points per year if you use 500 kWh of electricity each month.
Variable Rate Plans: Designed as month-to-month contracts, these plans are in total control of your energy provider, which can shift the price you pay per kWh at its discretion. This means you, the consumer, are in a better place to reap the benefits when the energy market falls — but it also means you're at risk for hikes in prices, whether as a result of natural disasters or the provider's bottom line. Variable plans always offer a full year of price history to show the average price per kWh so you can get a sense of what you're getting into (like this one from Reliant) and know this: Variable plans don't have cancellation fees. You can cut your service at any time — a huge incentive for REPs to keep their prices reasonable.
In Houston, 0% of people have switched to a plan that has some renewable energy component to it. Another 0% have switched to a plan that is partially renewable, while 0% have switched to a plan that powers homes completely by renewable electricity. This of course means that 100% of people have remained on a plan powered by traditional sources of electricity such as coal or nuclear power.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) does it for you. When you sign up for a plan with a new provider, ERCOT will send you a mailer confirming the switch. You have three days upon receiving the mailer to change your mind. If you don't, you'll have a new provider within seven days, and ERCOT will notify your old provider. Just remember, if you abandon a contract before it's complete, you will be on the hook for any fees or penalties detailed in its Terms of Service.
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.
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.
According to The Watchdog, the broker SaveOnEnergy hosts powertochooseTX.com and powertochooseTX.org, among many others. These sites – although branded as SaveOnEnergy – can appear to offer quotes from all available electricity suppliers in a given zip code, just as you would find on the PUCT’s PowertoChoose.org. But in reality, the only offers listed on this site are from suppliers who contract with SaveOnEnergy to sell residential and commercial plans on their behalf.
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.
After Senate Bill 7 went into effect in January 2002, nearly 6 million power customers became eligible to choose their energy supplier. That number has grown through the years. By deregulating the state’s energy market, the Texas Senate gave constituents the power to choose. The process of energy deregulation in Texas dismantled the utilities’ monopoly over the electric market and encouraged customers to explore their energy options.
Shopping for a plan based on renewable sources is no different than shopping for any other kind of plan — you calculate your costs the same way, look for the same fees, and weigh in customer satisfaction and other perks. The one thing that’s different is also looking at what percentage of your energy comes from renewable content in the EFL. That number can swing from as low as 0 percent all the way up to 100 percent, with the majority of plans that partially offset energy with renewable content hovering around 15 percent.
As they’re advertised, the Digital Discount plan appears to save you $4 — but only if you use 32 percent of your energy on the weekends, which is the stat Reliant used to create the average price it advertises. Say you often travel for business during the week, and are only home cranking the air conditioner on weekends. If your energy use skews to 55 percent weekend use (for Reliant, that means 8 pm on Friday through 12 am Monday), suddenly Truly Free Weekends becomes a much better deal.
Spark Energy is an early pioneer in the retail energy business. From our Houston headquarters, we started out in 1999 with the dream of serving newly deregulated energy markets across the country. Over the years, many retail energy providers have come and gone, leaving their customers to fend for themselves. But Spark Energy has successfully weathered everything from hurricanes and financial crisis, to the ups and downs of a very competitive industry. Through it all we have never stopped serving our customers with utmost attention to their needs.
There are many different options for term lengths in the Texas energy market. Different term lengths often have different price points, so if you’re more flexible with the length of your contract, you could get a cheaper rate. Contracts with shorter term lengths are great if you prefer to avoid a long-term commitment while longer contracts usually provide the benefit of longer-term price stability.
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.)