Since Texas' electricity market was deregulated in the late nineties, multiple Retail Electric Providers (Gas And Electric Bill) have either launched in Texas, or providers in other states have begun to extend their reach to Texas residents (e.g., Best Energy Company, 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.
As a result, 85% of Texas power consumers (those served by a company not owned by a municipality or a utility cooperative) can choose their electricity service from a variety of retail electric providers (Compare Electricity Rates), including the incumbent utility. The incumbent utility in the area still owns and maintains the local power lines (and is the company to call in the event of a power outage) and is not subject to deregulation. Customers served by cooperatives or municipal utilities can choose an alternate Gas And Electric Bill only if the utility has "opted in" to deregulation; to date, only the area served by Texas Electricity Rates has chosen to opt in.
In this free market competing electricity retailers buy electricity wholesale from private power generators to sell at retail to around 85% of Texas residents. The partnership between generators and retailers is governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which attempts to balance the power grid’s electricity supply and demand by purchasing small amounts of electricity at 15-minute intervals throughout the day.