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.
Another unwelcome side effect of not knowing your average monthly kWh usage level is that you may end up paying more than you expect. This can occur when a customer inadvertently shops an electric rate based on a higher usage level than they actually use. Electricity suppliers commonly advertise their electric rates associated with the highest (2000 kWh) usage levels since those tend to be the lowest rates.
Electricity or Gas Supplier License/Order #s: CA 1359, CTA0006, CTA0032; CT 01-06, 06-07-11, 06-02-17; DE 00-162; DC GA2012-12, GA06-2, EA01-5, GA 11-5, EA 06-5-4, GA03-5; GA GM-46; IL 02-0489, 03-0320, 16-0205,17-0330, 07-0498; IA G-0010; ME 2000-989, 2002-64; MD IR-3645, IR-655, IR-311, IR-500, IR-3644, IR-228; MA GS-053, GS-030, CS-015, CS-045; MI U-14066, U-14867, U-13660, U-13245; NE NG-0043; NH DM 17-024; NJ GSL-0074, GSL-0101, ESL-0016, ESL-0066, GSL-0132, GSL-0099, GSL-0150, ESL-0171; OH, 09-153G, 00-003E, 00-013E; OR ES4 (12-162); PA A-2016-2542899, A-125095, A-110036, A-2016-2547424, A-110110; RI 2379(Z1), D-96-6(E); TX 10014; VA G-26, G-34, G-36, G-51, E-11A
3. Customer service: When the only utility available has lousy customer service, nobody is surprised. They don’t even pretend to care – they know they have you over a barrel. With all these new players in town, however, it’s a slap in the face to be treated like royalty until you’ve signed on the dotted line and now they won’t even return your calls or the person on the phone can’t string three English words together or if he does speak English, he’s brand new and panicking trying to pull up your account information.
In deregulated states, electricity providers simply can't do business like that because consumers like you are demanding energy from renewable sources. Threats of global warming are too terrible to be irresponsible with our energy sources anymore. As a result, each electric company is pushing forward to find renewable energy sources that are cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable than older forms of energy.
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.
Energy sellers must provide collateral to ERCOT to cover expected future costs of buying wholesale electricity and if the companies don’t have enough capital, they get shut down. Breeze Energy, a Dallas-based electricity retailer that sold wind-energy plans to 9,800 customers including many in the Houston area, got caught in that financial squeeze when it defaulted on its collateral obligations.
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.