Some good news: According to J.D. Power’s 2016 survey on retail electric providers (its most current survey of the space), Texas has the highest overall satisfaction with retail electric providers out of any state. And because rates, plans, and offers can be so similar from provider to provider, customer satisfaction scores are a great way to break a tie. Think of it like choosing who to hire when you have two candidates with similar resumes — you’re going to pick the person with the glowing references.
The increase in retail rates come as companies prepare for surging prices in the wholesale electricity markets where they buy their power. Forecasts of higher than normal temperatures and record power demand are coinciding with the shutdown of at least three coal-fired plants, leading to concerns that temporary shortages on the hottest summer days could send wholesale prices, which typically average less than $50 per megawatt hour, spiking to $3,000 per megawatt hour or higher. (A megawatt hour is 1,000 kilowatt hours.)
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average household in Texas uses about 15,000 kWh of electricity per year — 26 percent more than the national average, “but similar to the amount used in neighboring states.” That said, the only way to know your personal average energy consumption is by looking at your electricity bills over the course of a year (you want to accommodate all weather conditions) and understanding both your overall usage, as well as if you use more or less during certain months.
On the other hand, month-to-month variable rate (no-contract) plans don’t have cancellation fees. You won’t be penalized if you find a better deal elsewhere and want to make another switch. And, you won’t be stuck paying more than you should be if the market rate for electricity trends down. But, if it goes up, you’ll be paying more than your in-contract neighbors, and you’ll likely want to shop around again for a better deal.
Due to the increased usage of natural gas immediately after deregulation, new-era energy tools such as wind power and smart-grid technology were greatly aided. Texas' first "renewable portfolio standard" — or requirement that the state's utilities get a certain amount of their power from renewable energy like wind — was signed into law in 1999, as part of the same legislation that deregulated the electric market.
Energy sellers must provide collateral to ERCOT to cover expected future costs of buying wholesale electricity and if the companies don’t have enough capital, they get shut down. Gas And Electric Companies Energy, a Dallas-based electricity retailer that sold wind-energy plans to 9,800 customers including many in the Houston area, got caught in that financial squeeze when it defaulted on its collateral obligations.
In Texas, the average household uses an average of 77 million Btu of electricity per year, which is approximately 14% less than the national average. Breaking these stats down even further shows us that electricity use in the average Texan home is 26% higher than the rest of the United States, however this isn’t much higher than several other states that are closest to Texas. When it comes to cost, the average total household bill per year is $1,801. This amount ranks amongst the highest across America, but other states that typically see soaring temperatures in the summer season aren’t far behind.
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.
Fixed-Rate Plans: These plans are steady and predictable; the price per kWh you sign up for will remain that same for the entirety of your contract. (The only changes in your bill will be from forces outside of your Gas And Electric Bill's control, like changes in TDU fees, or changes in federal, state, or local laws.) Often fixed-rate plans will have a slightly higher price per kWh than others, but you're paying for the predictability. They're great if you live by your budget – and even greater if you happen to sign up when rates are low. The fixed-rate plans of our five Texas providers typically started at 12 months, with some extending up to three years, but we spotted a couple from Cheapest Electric Company that offered fixed rates for six month contracts as well.
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