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?
Multi-year electricity contracts are not unusual; this method of structuring customer timelines is. Our guess: It’s a holdover style of billing from FirstEnergy’s involvement with governmental aggregations — municipal groups that get together and buy their energy as a community. Rather than have the option of a long term or short term plan, consumers are forced to take what’s available to them at the time.
Texas currently produces and consumes more electricity than any other state in the country. This energy consumption is due to its size, but the ample land makes it a major producer of wind power – a renewable, or green, energy source. The environmentally friendly energy created by wind power is available to many Texas residents to supply the electricity in their home or business.
Landsvirkun, Iceland’s national power company, offers electricity to buyers for as low as $0.043 per kWh, which is nearly on par with what can be found in Washington State. Coupled with 20% corporate tax, the nation’s low energy prices have attracted not just data centers, methanol producers, silicon metal producers but also aluminum companies—which, again, consume massive amounts of electricity.
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.
As the leading producer of nuclear energy, the U.S. has some of the world’s cheapest electricity—which for the industrial sector averages between 6.75 and 9.33 cents per kWh. These prices are either trumped or competitive with other nuclear power-producing countries such as Russia ($0.11 cents per kWh), Canada ($0.10) and China ($0.08). India, which doesn't quite make it into the top 10, generates 30 billion kWh annually at an average of $0.08 cents per kWh.
Why are so many African power utilities effectively bankrupt? For one thing, they are incredibly inefficient. Efficiency can be improved by proper metering, investing in the system to reduce losses, improving collections and being able to cut off non-payers. This last one being easier if there is up-to-date metering and certain big players like government departments and military installations are also forced to obey the rules. These operational improvements and efficiencies will improve the supply of power but will not go far enough.
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But competition didn't necessarily end up cutting prices, according to the report. One contributing factor is confusion among customers as they try to choose among scores of retail electricity providers and the overwhelming variation of plans, leading many to just stick with familiar companies rather than look for better deals, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power .