A major question point when considering whether or not switch electricity providers is "What will happen to electric rates?" This can be a tricky question to answer as rates are continuously in flux. In the short-term it's impossible to know exactly what will happen to rates but when looking at a longer term picture things become a bit clearer. Based on the graph above, electric rates in Texas have generally been increase over the past decade. Assuming this trend continues, the best way to protect yourself from increasing rates is to switch into a 12 month or 24 month plan and lock into a low rate.
Power to Choose is a program run by the Cheapest Electricity Rates of Texas. Its goal is to protect residents of the state from unfair energy costs and unregulated Compare Electricity Rates, 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).
Free Nights & Free Weekends electricity plans are an incredibly popular choice for Texas electricity customers. Providers have answered customer’s demand with several ‘free time’ electricity plan choices. Most of these time of use plans offer free weekends, while others offer free nights or even a free month of electricity. Customers love the idea of free electricity, and why not? Hot summers in Texas require a lot of electricity!
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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) 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.)
Prices on longer term plans of a year or more have also risen significantly. Retail electricity providers are reluctant to discuss their prices — especially rising ones — but the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, a trade group, estimated that the rate on a one-year fixed price offer on the Power to Choose website has climbed more than 20 percent over the past year to an average of 11.1 cents per kilowatt hour.
Not only does it show customers the real rates at different usage levels but it reflects both the rate jumps in a plan at certain usage. It also shows whether the rate is high or low compared to general electricity market pricing. By doing all the calculations for the customer, Compare Electricity Companies' Rate Analyzer can show customers what their best energy options are when they shop for Texas electricity no matter what TDU area they are in. Customers can see how much they can really expect to pay each month for their usage.
As a result, power companies have shut down Texas coal plants unable to compete with lower-cost generators. Meanwhile, the low electricity prices of recent years — a function of cheap natural gas — and small profits have discouraged companies from investing in new power plants. ERCOT, which oversees about 90 percent of the state’s power grid, said power reserves that are called on when demand peaks on the hottest summer days have shrunk to the lowest levels since Texas deregulated power markets in 2002.
The Electricity Plans’s mission is to protect customers, foster competition, and promote high-quality infrastructure. In addition to regulating the states electric utilities and implementing legislation, the Electricity Plans offers Texas residents assistance in resolving consumer complaints. If you have a complaint with your electricity company you can go to the official Electricity Plans website and file an informal complaint.