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.
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 vast majority of Texas residential consumers on fixed-rate contracts pay anywhere from 6 to 13 cents per kWh for electricity. However, searches for service in most major metropolitan zip codes on PowertoChoose.org reveal a long list of offers seemingly too good to be true, with several starting at 1 cent per kWh. These offers may appear to be a great deal on the surface, but they are often accompanied by confusing minimum usage requirements, monthly fees, and conditional bill credits. Those conditions can be easily overlooked by eager consumers wanting a bargain on their utility bills.
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).
1Offer valid for new residential customers in Texas only. Provisioned smart meter required. Free power begins on Fridays at 6:00 PM and ends Sunday at 11:59 PM. To utilize all features of the Echo Dot, you will need an 'always on' Wi-Fi internet service. If you cancel your plan early there's a fee of $135. You cannot return your Echo Dot to avoid the early cancellation fee. Terms and Conditions apply. All Amazon trademarks and copyrights are property of Amazon.com or its affiliates. The Echo Dot is provided by Direct Energy, Amazon is not a sponsor of this energy plan offer.
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.