Electric companies buy longer-term contracts so they can hedge their risks when they’re selling long-term electricity plans. Just a week ago, it looked as if wholesale prices would be as high as Texas has seen in the past 15 years, said Ned Ross, director of governmental affairs for Direct Energy, the third biggest seller of electricity in Texas, behind No. 1 NRG and No. 2 TXU. Future prices have retreated recently, but companies buying power for August are still paying at least double what they paid a year ago, according to data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which oversees the state’s power markets.

Should you choose a short-term, long-term, month-to-month, or prepaid plan? The short answer: it depends on your specific needs. How long do you anticipate living at your location? Are you deciding in the peak season (summer in Houston) or off season? All electricity providers in Houston offer a broad selection of plans for different contract lengths. Many also offer month-to-month and prepaid electricity plans. The bottom line is that everyone’s needs are different and all contract term lengths offer advantages and disadvantages.


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The cheapest rates are going to have shorter contract terms. For instance, a 3 month term is cheaper than a 6 month term and a 6 month term is cheaper than a 12-14 month term. So if you are able to remember to call before your contract expires (they will notify via mail you that your contract is about to expire), then the 3 or 6-month term is your best bet. If you don't call to renew/cancel, you will be charged a much higher variable rate on a month-to-month basis. If this is you, sign for a 12-month contract term with the cheapest rate.
Instead of calling each company in turn and having to go through the whole credit application process with each inquiry dragging your credit score and your spirits ever lower, visit ComparePower.  Only the REPs active in your area will be shown and you have access to full disclosure – all the FAQs and all the fine print.  This allows you to create a short list of companies that you can then approach with your application and, if needed, letter of guarantee already in hand.  It’s a more dignified way to get the lights turned on.
To skirt the late summer electricity rate hikes, a little bit of planning can really pay off. Try to avoid signing new long-term electricity contracts in late summer. While it may be impossible to escape signing a new electricity contract if you’re moving during that time, just know that a short-term plan may make more sense until the rates go back down in the fall.  That way you’re not stuck paying a premium rate for an entire year or more.
Canadian electricity is cheap at 10 US cents per kilowatt hour, which is reflected in their high average electricity usage. US electricity prices at 0.12 $/kWh are also quite cheap internationally. In India and China they are very cheap. The UK is in the middle at 20 cents. It’s relatively expensive globally but not too bad for Europe, where most countries pay a high share of tax on their power.
There was a time when electricity was electricity.  Like so many other places around America, in Houston, electricity didn’t mean “cheap electricity”.  But you moved into your home and you called the utility and they turned on the power and the bill came in and you paid it every month.  Oh, sure, you might grumble at the amount but then you’d go around and yell at the kids for leaving the lights on and the TV blaring with nobody in the room or maybe you’d look into buying more energy-efficient appliances.  When it came down to it, the Bill was the Bill.  Either you paid the bill or you ate dry packet meals, had cold showers, and watched TV by peering through the neighbor’s window after dark (preferably once they’d turned the TV on).  What’s that?  You want cheap electricity?  Sure thing:  call 1-800-WHO-CARES any time during regular business hours of 2:17am to 3:04am Sundays only.
2.     Fraud:  Too many people have been victimized by glib sales reps with promises of cheap electricity flowing in an unending stream only to discover that, as is so often true, “it ain’t necessarily so”.  They’ve been locked into unwanted term contracts or there’s a catch – some utilities will give you the great rate only if you meet a usage minimum; basically, the “rate” is, in actuality, a “bulk purchase” discounted fee – or they paid a deposit never to hear from the rep again.

2. Most companies have this basic $9.95/mo charge if you don't meet a certain kWh, usually 1000 kWh (Reliant is 800kWh minimum). That will pose a problem in those more temperate months like in the spring and fall because although you're paying lower kWh,you're paying that extra $9.95/mo for no reason. ASK YOUR ENERGY PROVIDER WHAT THE LIMIT IS. I got a minimum of 800kWh/mo with Reliant; if I go under 800kWh, I will have to pay $9.95. Good thing about Reliant is that they do a weekly energy usage report, and you can keep up with how much you may owe. That's pretty useful to me, considering I live in a smaller space, thus less usage.
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.

There was a time when electricity was electricity.  Like so many other places around America, in Houston, electricity didn’t mean “cheap electricity”.  But you moved into your home and you called the utility and they turned on the power and the bill came in and you paid it every month.  Oh, sure, you might grumble at the amount but then you’d go around and yell at the kids for leaving the lights on and the TV blaring with nobody in the room or maybe you’d look into buying more energy-efficient appliances.  When it came down to it, the Bill was the Bill.  Either you paid the bill or you ate dry packet meals, had cold showers, and watched TV by peering through the neighbor’s window after dark (preferably once they’d turned the TV on).  What’s that?  You want cheap electricity?  Sure thing:  call 1-800-WHO-CARES any time during regular business hours of 2:17am to 3:04am Sundays only.


Should you choose a short-term, long-term, month-to-month, or prepaid plan? The short answer: it depends on your specific needs. How long do you anticipate living at your location? Are you deciding in the peak season (summer in Houston) or off season? All electricity providers in Houston offer a broad selection of plans for different contract lengths. Many also offer month-to-month and prepaid electricity plans. The bottom line is that everyone’s needs are different and all contract term lengths offer advantages and disadvantages.
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.
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