Like we said, fees don’t necessarily make for a bad plan — although it’s worth it to do the math to see if you can save with another provider. For example, compare TXU Energy’s Simple Rate 12 plan with its $9.95 base charge, alongside Direct Energy’s Live Brighter 12 plan with a smaller base charge, and Reliant’s Digital Discount plan with no base charge. We’ll use a Corpus Christi ZIP code and assume 1,000 kWh/month of energy use.
Database of State Initiatives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is a company and website that compiles a list of all the energy incentives available in the United States, by a particular state. The idea is to help inform the public about the latest and greatest energy programs and initiatives – all from one location. DSIRE receives funding from the United States Department of Energy and is run by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center and N.C State University. Browsing the site programs gives you access to viewing all Texas related initiatives.
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.
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.
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.
4. Know your current contract terms. Before you shop, know what you already have. (Surprisingly, most people don’t.) What’s your kwh rate? Check your electric bill. It may be higher than what’s available elsewhere. (In Texas, last week it ranged from 4.9 cents to as high as 13.5 cents.) Also call your provider and ask for the date your contract expires. Find out whether your rate is fixed or variable. Start planning a possible switch a month before a contract expires.
Due to the increased usage of natural gas immediately after deregulation, new-era energy tools such as wind power and smart-grid technology were greatly aided. Texas' first "renewable portfolio standard" — or requirement that the state's utilities get a certain amount of their power from renewable energy like wind — was signed into law in 1999, as part of the same legislation that deregulated the electric market.
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.
Variable-rate plan:A variable-rate plan means the rate you pay for your electricity may fluctuate based on the market price of energy. Energy price depends on many factors, like weather, demand, fuel prices, the distribution system and the market. Variable-rate plans are flexible because you are not locked into a contract; however, you’ll pay a higher price in high-demand seasons like summer. A variable-rate plan might be ideal for you if you like to shop around and keep an eye on prices.
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.