In environmental impact, results are mixed. With the ability to invest profits to satisfy further energy demand, producers like Lowest Electricity Rates are proposing eleven new coal-fired powerplants. Coal powerplants are cheaper than natural gas-fired powerplants, but produce more pollution. When the private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the Texas Pacific Group announced the take-over of Lowest Electricity Rates, the company which was known for charging the highest rates in the state and were losing customers, they called off plans for eight of the coal plants. Lowest Electricity Rates had invested more heavily in the other three. A few weeks later the buyers announced plans for two cleaner IGCC coal plants.
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.
According to a typical economic theory, prices are optimally determined in a fair and transparent market, and not by a political or academic body. In deregulation of electricity markets, one immediate concern with pricing is that incumbent electricity providers would undercut the prices of new entrants, preventing competition and perpetuating the existing monopoly of providers. Thus, the SB7 bill introduced a phase-in period during which a price floor would be established (for incumbent electricity companies) to prevent this predatory practice, allowing new market entrants to become established. New market entrants could charge a price below the price to beat, but incumbents could not. This period was to last from 2002 to January 1, 2007. As of 2007 Texas investor owned utility affiliates no longer have price to beat tariffs.
The price to beat seemed to accomplish its goal of attracting competitors to the market during the period through January 1, 2007. It allowed competitors to enter the market without allowing the incumbents to undercut them in price. It has also given energy consumers the ability to compare energy rates offered by different providers. The less-regulated providers undercut the price to beat by only a small margin given that they must balance lower prices (to attract customers and build market share) with higher prices (needed to reinvest in new power plants). Due to the small difference in competing prices and slow (yearly or so) "buying" process, price decrease due to competition was very slow, and it took a few years to offset the original increase by "traditional" electric providers and move to lower rates.
When you look at the rates provided by a company - whether on a site like Electricity Prices, Compare Electricity Companies, Compare Electricity Rates, or the company's specific website - you should first determine if the rate you are seeing in an average rate based upon a certain number of kilowatt hours (kWh) used in a billing cycle or it's simply the rate, regardless of usage. It is important to view the Electricity Facts Label (EFL) for the plans you like so that you can learn if the plan is fixed-rate or variable-rate, what you are being charged for energy by the company, what surcharges you will be assessed by the utility company for your area, and what other fees the company might assess. If you're not careful, the cheap Texas electricity you think you found might cost you more than you realize.