Ultimately, analysts said, this means that the vast majority of customers are not reaping the benefits of electricity deregulation, which promised that more competition would mean healthy savings. One analyst estimates that consumers are leaving about $2 billion a year on the table, which is likely flowing to the bottom lines of retail electricity companies.
One way NRG has expanded its customer base — it has about 30 percent of the retail electricity market in Texas compared to about 20 percent a decade ago —is by putting employees into retail settings such as grocery stores and discount stores to meet with consumers about the company’s electricity plan offerings. The face-to-face interactions have helped the company explain the range of current offerings, said Killinger. NRG also emphasizes the importance of buying power from a company with enough financial heft that it will be around in the future.
In the Houston area, only 16 percent of CenterPoint Energy’s 2.4 million residential customers — or about one in six — switched their electricity providers over the past year, according to the state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Among the 3.5 million customers of the state’s largest electric distribution utility, Oncor of Dallas, just 13 percent — only one in eight — signed up with a new retail power company in the last 12 months.
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
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 .
Consumers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi were promised bargains on electricity when the Texas Legislature deregulated the electricity market. But 16 years later they're still paying more for electricity than their counterparts in cities Texas lawmakers exempted from deregulation such as Austin and San Antonio, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power which analyzed federal electricity pricing data.
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.
Oncor, the state’s largest distribution utility which covers Dallas, Fort Worth and much of North Texas, has already agreed to pass all of the millions of dollars of expected tax savings along to consumers. Oncor agreed to pass the savings along to customers as part of a rate review which is a formal process in which the PUC reviews the appropriateness of rates being charged by the utility. No exact details have been determined with respect to how the savings will be passed along. The rate review was actually completed before the tax reform bill was passed but there was a commitment in principle to passing along the savings. It’s not yet know exactly how much Oncor will save from the lower corporate tax rates but with a $245 million tax bill in 2017 future saving are likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
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