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.
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.
Compared to the rest of the nation, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration which publishes annual state electric prices  shows that Texas' electric prices did rise above the national average immediately after deregulation from 2003 to 2009, but, from 2010 to 2015 have moved significantly below the national average price per kWh, with a total cost of $0.0863 per kWh in Texas in 2015 vs. $0.1042 nationally, or 17 percent lower in Texas. Between 2002-2014 the total cost to Texas consumers is estimated to be $24B, an average of $5,100 per household, more than comparable markets under state regulation. 
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.
5Green energy plans are supported 100% by Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) that are purchased and retired in an amount sufficient to match your annual consumption. RECs are a tradeable, non-tangible energy commodity in the United States that represents proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource like biomass, hydro, solar or wind. Please see your Terms of Service for more information.
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.
For example, if you use a small amount of energy each month, you expect to be rewarded — right? Unfortunately, nearly all electricity plans from Texas REPs are advertised as costing more per kWh the less electricity you use. It’s a little like buying in bulk: Providers often discount your bill when you cross certain kWh thresholds. For instance, one 12-month plan from StarTex Power quotes 8.1 cents per kWh for 1,000 kWh a month and 8.8 cents for 2,000 kWh per month, but 12.1 cents for 500 kWh per month. Why the difference? Customers get $35 back each month if they pass 1,000 kWh of use, and another $15 back per month if they cross 2,000 kWh. In this case, using half as much electricity as your neighbor on the same plan wouldn’t get you half the bill.
Since 2002, Amigo Energy has been one of the best electric companies in Texas. Not only that, but more recently we’ve received far fewer Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC) complaints than most other large residential electricity providers across the state.2 In fact, our customer service gets even better over the phone because our call-in customers have yet to file a PUC complaint this year.3 This ain’t our first rodeo—with over 15 years of experience and a track record of reliable service, you can trust Amigo Energy as your retail electricity provider.
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.
6. Conduct a thorough search. Go to this website: powertochoose.org. (If you don’t have an Internet connection, visit your public library and ask a librarian for help. Or ask a friend or relative to help you.) Enter your ZIP code and start searching. When you find an offer you like, make sure to go to the company’s website. Sometimes the company’s price might be cheaper than what’s shown on powertochoose.org.
8. Study the results. For the selection cited above, several dozen companies recently offered rates in that range. Remember that the lowest rates could come from a company with a poor reputation, but more on that later. Contract lengths varied from one to 36 months. Each service plan comes with links to “Terms of Service,” “Facts Sheet,” “Signup” and “Special Terms.” When you click on these, you learn the nitty-gritty details. Many companies have minimums about the amount of power you must use, or you pay more. Carefully look for language about other fees.
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.
When looking at the variety of retailers, you can choose from long- or short-term contracts; fixed, variable or indexed rates; and traditional or renewable energy plans. Some retail electricity providers even offer rewards programs that give you bill credits, gift cards or other perks for paying on time or referring new customers. You also have lots of options when it comes to paying your bill. Many providers accept credit card, online or over-the-phone payments. It's easy to make the power supply switch and worth the time if you can save on your electric bill. One phone call is all it takes to switch power providers in Texas. You can get the plan that works well for you when you exercise your power to switch today!