It would be a good idea for you to learn about whether or not a company charges you to interact with its Customer Service Department in any fashion. A company might offer affordable energy rates on the surface, but if they charge you to pay online or over the phone with a credit card, or to make even the most basic of phone calls to Customer Service, then you're not really saving that much money.
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.
As a result, 85%[1] 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.
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