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.
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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.
†Offer is available to Texas residential customers who enroll using the Promotion Code “NIGHTSFREE”. Plan bills a monthly Base Charge, an Energy Charge, and passes through Utility Transmission and Distribution delivery charges. Energy Charges for usage consumed between 9pm and 7am each day is credited back on your bill. The utility charges, including delivery charges for night time hours, are passed through at cost and aggregated on your bill. See Electricity Facts Label for details.
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.
For example, shoppers for Texas electricity plans in the 77494 ZIP code in Katy, TX, could find 12-month plans for 6.8 cents/kWh in February; by June, electricity rates had increased 27 percent to 9.3 cents/kWh. As of early September, 12-month plans were up again, to 9.9 cents/kWh – a 6.5 percent hike from June and a 46 percent increase just since February.
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.
While no company is perfect, we think an energy provider that owns up to mistakes and tries to treat customers fairly is a good thing for customers and for the deregulated energy industry. If a company isn't taking responsibility, we want the market competition to push them to be better, and customer reviews from energy consumers and ratepayers just like you makes that possible.
TDU Delivery Charge: TDU stands for transmission and delivery utility — in other words, the utility company in your area that is actually piping the energy from the power generation companies into your home. (Remember, REPs in Texas are just the middleman.) The TDU delivery charge is set by the utility and is consistent from plan to plan and provider to provider within its service areas. For example, AEP , the TDU for Corpus Christi, charges the same delivery fee for all TXU, Direct Energy, and Reliant plans. You don't typically get a choice in utility company, and therefore, these fees are pretty much unavoidable, non-negotiable, and won't factor into choosing an electricity plan or provider.
If your monthly use hovers around the 2,000 kWh mark, you’ll be spending around $2,000 per year on electricity bills no matter which REP you choose. With that level of investment, you may be tempted by an offer to get something extra in return — like rewards. Direct Energy is notable because it’s a part of American Express’s Plenti rewards program. For every dollar you spend on your Direct Energy plan, you earn a “Plenti point,” which you can then redeem on purchases with retail partners like Macy’s, AT&T, and Exxon.
One of the biggest benefits of deregulation is your right to choose an energy company that offers renewable power. Essentially, you can choose an energy supply that includes up to 100 percent green energy, which is generated with clean resources such as sun or wind. If supporting Texas is important to you, you can even choose your electric provider based on where it gets its green energy. Many providers offer renewable electricity that comes from Texas wind farms.
Determining the validity of these allegations ultimately rests on the shoulders of the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT), which has acknowledged “concern” over the reports. However – as a retail electric provider committed to responsible, transparent operations – we at Think Energy believe it’s important for Texas energy consumers to understand the issues at hand before entering into their next supply agreement.
We've pioneered our techniques and grown our expertise in the retail energy industry for more than a decade. With hundreds of thousands of customers and firm investor backing, we're a company you can count on. Spark Energy is also proud to be a publically traded company: our NASDAQ ticker is SPKE. Visit our investor relations page for more information.
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.
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.
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.
1. Legacy providers no longer rule. Get over the idea that original providers are the only companies that can offer solid, uninterrupted service. And don’t believe the fallacy that customers of legacy providers get serviced first when power goes out. Oncor Electric Delivery is responsible for maintaining the transmission system. Everybody uses Oncor to handle repairs in our region.
You’re popular. Use that to your advantage. When you sign up with Bounce Energy, you get a unique referral code when you login to your MyAccount. Share your code over email, put it on Facebook, take out a billboard. For every person who signs up with your code, you’ll get a $50 bill credit. No limits. And your buddies who sign up get a $50 bill credit, too. Being friendly saves!
The complaints filed against providers aren't a perfect mirror of the J.D. Power customer satisfactions scores. Just Energy, which earned only two J.D. Power Circles and earned the second-lowest score, had only 21 complaints recorded with the Public Utility Commission. But it's helpful to view these complaints in aggregate: Over 50 percent of the 1,119 total complaints fall under "billing" — another reason to seek out a provider with high customer satisfaction in that area in particular.
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.
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.
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.
When you use our rate comparison process, providers know that they are competing to win your business. Consequently, they offer cheap electric rates in hopes of becoming your new Texas electricity company. This benefits both you and the provider you select. You receive a cheap electric rate and the plan of your choice, and the provider adds another satisfied customer.
The price to beat seemed to accomplish its goal of attracting competitors to the market during the period through January 1, 2007. It allowed competitors to enter the market without allowing the incumbents to undercut them in price. It has also given energy consumers the ability to compare energy rates offered by different providers. The less-regulated providers undercut the price to beat by only a small margin given that they must balance lower prices (to attract customers and build market share) with higher prices (needed to reinvest in new power plants). Due to the small difference in competing prices and slow (yearly or so) "buying" process, price decrease due to competition was very slow, and it took a few years to offset the original increase by "traditional" electric providers and move to lower rates.
With the power to choose a supply plan, shopping competitive Texas electric rates could potentially save you money on your monthly electricity bills. TexasElectricRates.com can help you compare retail energy companies in Texas, finding the supply plan that is right for you. Best of all, there isn’t any risk when you shop Texas electricity. Simple enter your ZIP code to start finding electric supply rates in your area.