That means that customers in Houston paid an average of $5,500 more for electricity over a 14-year time span beginning in 2002, according to the group that buys electricity on behalf of municipal governments in Texas. The calculation, which uses data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, assumes monthly electricity use of 1,300 kilowatt hours.
Many people are aware that Iceland has the cleanest energy in the world by far. The island-nation generates 100% of its electricity from renewables such as hydroelectric and geothermal sources, and it’s also flirting with wind power. What those same people might not realize, however, is that this results in some of the cheapest electricity in the world.
Deregulation seeks to drive down costs and spur innovation by breaking up energy monopolies. In their place, two separate entities take care of 1) generation and 2) distribution. Electric Generation Suppliers (EGS) create electricity and set their own prices for consumers. Electric Distribution Companies (EDC), a.k.a., your local utility company, bring that electricity to your home.
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.
Prior to electricity deregulation in select areas of the United States, the electricity that powered homes and businesses came from the utility company and customers could not compare electricity providers. With electricity deregulation continuing to expand and electricity providers in the mix, residents and businesses should be sure to understand where their electricity comes from, how it’s delivered, and how the cost is divided.
Customers can find deals in competitive electricity markets if they take the time and effort to look at web sites such as powertochoose.org, the official comparison shopping site of the Public Utility Commission. The study cited a PUC survey of retail electricity offerings in Houston that showed nine deals in March that were lower than the regulated price of electricity in San Antonio.
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?
It all starts with the power generators – the companies who produce electricity to sell on the wholesale market. The electricity providers purchase the rights to large volumes of this electricity from the generators on the wholesale market and then turn around and sell it to their retail customers. The electricity providers market the sale of electricity to the public through various offerings of electricity plans that include everything from classic fixed-rate electricity, to 100% green electricity, to bundled products that have incentives such as a Nest Learning Thermostat™ or Visa gift cards.
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 that get power from municipal utilities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities that operate outside the state's primary power grid.
Texas electricity rates are on their way down again. After a summer spike, electricity rates across Texas have fallen. Utility officials were concerned about having enough electricity to meet peak summer demand. This resulted in electricity providers increasing the rates on their fixed rate plans in anticipation of higher wholesale electricity prices.
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.
The Texas Senate Bill 7, passed in 2002, gave 5.6 million Texans the power to choose a retail electric provider (REP) to supply electricity to their home or business. This bill facilitated a competitive energy marketplace that 85 percent of Texans can capitalize on today. Energy choice is available to residents in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth as well as other cities in Texas.
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 be sure you know what you’re signing up for. Just Energy doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to transparency. In recent years, the Massachusetts Attorney General ordered the company to pay $4 million in restitution to customers who were charged exorbitant rates and cancellation fees that did not appear in Just Energy’s advertising. As part of the settlement, Just Energy agreed to run all its advertising past an independent monitor.
Just as you shop for other products and services, you may also be able to shop for an energy supplier. With choice, energy customers from large manufacturers to residential homeowners are able to shop for energy options from a diverse group of competitive suppliers certified by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). As more suppliers are offering their services in your area, you have the opportunity to choose the company that supplies the generation of your electricity and supplies your natural gas.
Pennsylvania offers first-time retail shoppers an attractive discount with the Standard Offer Program. The Public Utility Commission has a rotating list of retail providers and upon enrollment, they’ll hook you up with a 12-month fixed-rate plan at seven percent off the current utility price. You can cancel at any time without fees. For 1,000 kWh per month usage, PECO quoted us a price to compare of 7.13 cents. A seven percent discount brings that rate to 6.63 cents per kWh (lower than any plan on our provider list) — a $60 savings after a year of service.
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