Statement regarding savings: How your price compares. This is usually a generic statement that you may or may not be getting a better price than you would from the utility company, also known as the Electric Distribution Company, or EDC. Your local EDC sets a “price to compare” and any competitors’ plan may be lower or higher by several cents a kWh.
An additional bill was passed in 1999 that helped further establish a competitive electricity market by creating a price floor to prevent established energy providers from underselling emerging providers. In 2002, Texas finalized deregulation when the Public Utility Commission gave ERCOT the responsibility of managing and monitoring the Texas electricity market. The market opened up to around 6 million Texas power customers.
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.
Most of Direct Energy’s plans allow you to earn Plenti points — you get 1,000 as soon as you sign up. That initial windfall is about as good as it gets. You keep accumulating rewards with every payment, but just one point for every dollar you spend on supply charges (what you pay to Direct Energy vs. your EDC — so about two-thirds of your total bill). A Plenti point equates to about one cent, so that 1,000 point bonus works out to $10 when you cash it in with a Plenti merchant (Rite Aid, Macy’s, etc.) You’d have to spend a further $1,000 in supply charges before making off with another $10.00 in Plenti points.
Around 85% of Texas residents must choose an electricity provider. Utility companies transmit and distribute electricity to customers. But that electricity doesn’t come from a utility—it comes from companies known as Retail Electric Providers. These providers offer competitive plans based on electricity pricing, term length, renewable sourcing and more.
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.
To be clear, no matter fuel portfolio of the plan you choose, your electricity’s make-up will be identical to your neighbors’. Depending on where you live, that could a mix of renewable and fossil fuels. Certificates offset your electricity use by putting an equal amount of clean energy into the electricity grid. If a plan is 100% renewable, that means it’s 100% offset with certificates.
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.
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.
Over a year, you could save nearly $100 by choosing the green plan. But it’s important to note that Constellation’s attractive initial rates will very likely not be around for a second year. According to the customer reviews on Consumer Affairs, this new contract usually jacks up the price. It offers great rates for new customers, but it may not be worth it to stick with them for more than an initial contract.
With moderate fluctuations taken into account, the variable plans is still cheaper. Our bill is approximately $10 more in the winter, but we’d still save $138 over the course of a year. It’s more a question of whether you can roll with the punches of an unpredictable rate, or would sleep easier knowing your bill is going to look the same month after month.
While there is a very strong argument for providing cheap, subsidized power for the poorest in society, this should be done in a way that limits subsidies to the really deserving and the system as a whole needs to be able to charge tariffs that on average cover all costs. If this doesn’t happen then all manner of bad things will follow. As you might guess prices have been set too low by African governments. These subsidies have also been made too widely available, benefitting the elite and middle classes more than the poor (who, not having good access to the grid in the first place, don’t have ready access to these subsidies).