In Texas, if you’re renting an apartment, townhouse, or small home, you need affordable electricity that fits your lifestyle, budget, and lease term. That’s why it’s smart to shop for an electricity plan designed especially with renters in mind. Apartment electricity plans have better prices at lower electricity usage levels and shorter available contract lengths so that you can stay flexible and stay in budget.
In deregulated markets such as Texas and Maryland, the state government may require the incumbent utility energy provider to allow for unlimited competition within the marketplace, where the consumer is free to choose any electricity provider. Electricity provider switching is only practical if a customer is either buying from a utility or is at the end of a fixed-price contract with a provider.
But, again, the concept isn’t difficult. Let’s use the city of Joliet as an example. Joliet’s traditional utility for the 60435 area code is Commonwealth Edison. As of late February, its price to compare is 7.195 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh); at this writing, four plans from ChooseEnergy.com featured suppliers with lower rates, including one that’s 18% cheaper and uses all green energy.
Just Energy’s style of Contract Summaries doesn’t make it easy to parse out exact details, leaving blank spaces where rate and term length info should appear. On the third page, you’ll find densely typed Terms and Conditions that confusingly conflate Just Energy’s natural gas and electricity plans. It’s heavy on the legalese but light on the data that you’ll want to nail down before making a purchasing decision, like rate. We couldn’t get a clear price or explanation on what happens after commitment without enrolling in a plan.
Twenty-nine states have deregulated electricity, natural gas or both. That allows you to shop for the supply portion of your bill from alternative providers who may offer rates lower than the default supplier – usually a utility. Delivery services and billing will remain the responsibility of the local utility as they own the power lines and wires that keep the lights on.
As of April 2014, 16 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have deregulated electricity markets. Along with aforementioned Maryland and Texas, electricity deregulation is current in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Seven additional U.S. states began the process of electricity deregulation but have suspended efforts: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wyoming.
The consumer has the choice between buying from their local utility (Local Distribution Company - LDC) or from one of the deregulated suppliers. There is a large range of contract options from a variable price to 1,3 or 5 year fixed prices. Electricity provider switching is difficult once the consumer is in one of these contracts, unless they are close to the end of a fixed price contract. However, as of January 2010 there is a maximum termination penalty allowed.
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.
In Texas' deregulated energy market, customers must pick their own electricity provider, all of which offer different rates per hour of power usage. You can shop for other power plans on the state-run website, www.powertochoose.org, or try an alternative website, like www.texaspowerguide.com to help find the cheapest plan. Keep in mind that many retail electricity contracts carry penalties for early termination.
Usually, fixed-rate renewable-energy plans are among the most expensive options. But in our research, we found Constellation’s green plan rates were comparable to its non-green versions. For example, out of two otherwise identical fixed-rate, 12-month plans from Constellation — “12 Month Fixed Rate 100% Green” and “12 Month Fixed Rate” — it’s the renewable version that currently costs less.
This company has more plan variety than any other we looked at, though most of them seem more flashy than functional. And some seem weirdly niche — like "Connect to Comfort," a 24-month plan that comes with a Hive Hub and a Hive Active Thermostat, smart home devices that allow you to control your heat and A/C via app. Like many of Direct Energy’s plans, how good of a deal it is depends on how closely its offers align with your established habits.
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.
Simply Switch is a trading name of MoneyExpert Limited. MoneyExpert does not give advice on or recommend any particular insurance product or service or whether it is suitable for your personal circumstances. The information provided is to help you to make your own choice about how to proceed. MoneyExpert is an appointed representative of MoneyExpert Insurance Services Limited which is authorised and regulated by The Financial Services Authority FRN 557120.