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.
Despite the fact that Texas sees much higher temperatures year round, most households contain and use heating units. These units generate heat in one of four ways: other, propane, electricity and natural gas. Just over half of households in Texas use electricity to run their heating units. This is a much greater average than the overall average for the nation.
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.
Another positive environmental impact is the effect of higher energy prices on consumer choices, similar to the US market trend toward more fuel-efficient cars. As electric bills have risen, residents are reducing their electrical usage by using more moderate thermostat settings, installing insulation, installing solar screens, and other such activities. Texas utilities (such as Austin Energy) are also installing advanced electricity meters that may one day enable variable pricing based on the time of day. This would permit energy customers to save money by further tailoring their consumption based on whether it occurred during the peak demand period (high cost/high pollution) or the off-peak (night time).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Residents and business owners have been able to shop Texas electricity supply rates for more than a decade. When Texans gained the ability to choose their desired energy company in 2002, the electric industry divided into two parts: supply and delivery. Retail energy companies in Texas compete for business, offering a variety of term agreements and supply rates for consumers to choose from.