At Think Energy, we believe there should be no surprises when it comes to energy buying and management. We realize that budgets matter – a lot – to residential and small commercial consumers, and the last thing energy users need is uncertainty in monthly utility costs. That’s why we guarantee billing transparency: no hidden costs, no hidden fees, and no “bait and switch” offers that result in unexpected sticker shock.
One desired effect of the competition is lower electricity rates. In the first few years after the deregulation in 2002, the residential rate for electricity increased seven times, with the price to beat at around 15 cents per kilowatt hour (as of July 26, 2006, www.powertochoose.org) in 2006. However, while prices to customers increased 43% from 2002 to 2004, the costs of inputs rose faster, by 63%, showing that not all increases have been borne by consumers. (See Competition and entry of new firms above for discussion on the relationship between retail prices, inputs, and investment.)
7. Pick your poison. Deeper in the website you see a search box along the left side. Under “Plan Type,” a recommended pick is fixed, but you can also choose a variable or an indexed market rate. (The Watchdog likes fixed since market conditions can grow volatile.) Under “Price,” type in a range from 4 cents to 12 cents. That’s a good spread. Pick a contract length. Fill out the other boxes. Then hit “Refresh Results” on the bottom. Keep trying different combinations to see what the prices are that day. They change often.
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.
Since Texas' electricity market was deregulated in the late nineties, multiple Retail Electric Providers (REP) have either launched in Texas, or providers in other states have begun to extend their reach to Texas residents (e.g., Spark Energy, which was founded in Texas). These electricity providers are providing less expensive and/or greener electricity alternatives to traditional sources of energy, in contrast with the supply consumers previously received by default through their local utility. Customers now have the option to receive their electric supply from providers other than their utility, known as alternative retail electric providers.
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).
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