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Residents and business owners have been able to shop Texas electricity supply rates for more than a decade. When Texans gained the ability to choose their desired energy company in 2002, the electric industry divided into two parts: supply and delivery. Retail energy companies in Texas compete for business, offering a variety of term agreements and supply rates for consumers to choose from.
If you live in the greater Houston area, there are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business. Many of these providers have websites that are confusing and difficult to navigate, their rates buried in misleading advertising and dense jargon. Who has the time to sort through and keep track of options across all these different sites?
Minimum Usage Fees: Often set at or around 1,000 kWh/month, these fees mean you’ll always pay for at least that amount — even if you only use, say, 800 kWh of electricity some months. It sounds nasty, but it’s only something to be concerned about if your electricity bills historically show you hover right around that minimum use threshold. If you’re electricity use always exceeds that amount, it’s like it’s not even there.
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.
Another positive environmental impact is the effect of higher energy prices on consumer choices, similar to the US market trend toward more fuel-efficient cars. As electric bills have risen, residents are reducing their electrical usage by using more moderate thermostat settings, installing insulation, installing solar screens, and other such activities. Texas utilities (such as Cheap Energy) are also installing advanced electricity meters that may one day enable variable pricing based on the time of day. This would permit energy customers to save money by further tailoring their consumption based on whether it occurred during the peak demand period (high cost/high pollution) or the off-peak (night time).
Fixed-rate plans: Fixed-rate plans give customers more stability for their monthly energy bills because the rate a customer signs up with is the rate he or she pays for the length of the plan’s contract. Most fluctuation comes with usage, though transmission and delivery charges and local fees also can change.. Because a fixed-rate plan sometimes spans two-three years, these plans often require a customer credit check and can include early cancellation fees. Fixed-rate plans, because of the continuing market volatility, probably are the best choice for many consumers.
†Offer is available to Texas residential customers who enroll using the Promotion Code “Who Is My Electricity Supplier”. Plan bills a monthly Base Charge, an Energy Charge, and passes through Utility Transmission and Distribution delivery charges. Energy Charges for usage consumed between 9pm and 7am each day is credited back on your bill. The utility charges, including delivery charges for night time hours, are passed through at cost and aggregated on your bill. See Electricity Facts Label for details.
Which ones the best? Like all things energy, it depends. Do you prefer predictability, or do you like the idea of potentially saving some cash by monitoring the market? Our (albeit conservative) recommendation: Fixed rate is probably best. Energy prices are on the rise — the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a 3 percent increase in residential electricity prices in 2018.
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.