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?
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Deregulation allows you to choose from a variety of retail electricity providers, much like you’d shop around for a telephone or internet provider. When choosing an electricity provider, the process is completely hassle-free. You will not have any service interruptions, your electricity will still be just as reliable as before, and your monthly bill will continue to arrive. If your power goes out, your utility will still be the one to call. The only change will be under the supply portion of you bill. There, you will see the provider you selected and the rate you approved.
Texas deregulated most of the state's electricity markets in 2002, a move aimed at lowering electricity costs by letting consumers choose their own electric power providers and their own plans. Some parts of Texas continued to be regulated, including those whose power is proved by municipally-owned utilities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities that operate outside the state's primary power grid.
Technology that now allows smaller quantities of power to be generated closer to the end-users at prices not too much higher than grid-based power are undermining those economies of scale. More efficient turbines, for example, allow large power users like cement plants and petrochemical factories to come off the grid. Today the limiting factor for large companies to come off the grid often isn’t the efficiency of the power generation technology, but the lack of easy availability of fuel, such as gas or coal to power these turbines Even this problem is being solved by innovations like mini-liquefied natural gas projects.
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.
You’ll also see a flat rate and a price per kWh rate for TDU or TDSP (which stand for Transmission and Distribution Utility or Transportation Distribution Service Provider). These are costs that your utility charges for delivering electricity and maintaining power lines. The costs are unique to your local utility and have nothing to do with your electricity provider.
When we looked at each provider’s offerings, we focused on plans with innovative pricing or attractive deals, then did the math to find out which would pay off over time. To our surprise, the results were all over the board. Green plans weren’t always more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Sometimes a fluctuating variable rate is still cheaper in the long run. Our takeaway: It pays to shop around. We’ll walk you through our analysis — so you can do the same as you compare rates.
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.
Consumers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi were promised bargains on electricity when the Texas Legislature deregulated the electricity market. But 16 years later they're still paying more for electricity than their counterparts in cities Texas lawmakers exempted from deregulation such as Austin and San Antonio, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power which analyzed federal electricity pricing data.