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.
Consumers were promised cheaper power when Texas deregulated its electricity markets in 2002 at the urging of big industrial users and power companies. Average retail prices have declined by more than 60 percent since 2001, although much of that decline is due to the plunge in natural gas prices that followed advances in shale drilling and consequently wholesale power prices. Proponents of deregulation argue that they still have choices that can save them money.
How does that work? Spark Energy buys electricity and competes in the market for the best price -- a competition that ultimately drives prices down and allows us to deliver more value for your money. In Texas, switching to a different electricity provider is kind of like changing to a different long distance company. When you switch to Spark Energy, the utility will continue to deliver electricity to your home but Spark Energy will handle all the billing, including the utility’s delivery fees and the electricity you actually use.
Even though customers in deregulated cities routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated cities like Houston and regulated cities like San Antonio have dwindled to the narrowest point ever to 8.8 percent. Back in 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
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Knowing how much electricity you use each month is important to finding the cheapest electricity plan. For Houstonians, usage is typically the lowest in the winter and highest in the summer. Your specific usage levels can be determined by simply looking back at previous electric bills and finding the kWh used. To avoid electric bill surprises during the peak summer months, you’ll need to accurately know your peak electricity usage which typically occurs in August.
Here are my 2 cents about electric companies when shopping around for the best rates. Currently, the average cents/kWh in Houston is 10 cents, after speaking to a very helpful, very informative Green Mountain Energy representative. Although their rates are a little higher than my current rates, they have FANTASTIC customer service (which is almost worth it). The GME rep even recommended that I stick with what I am using now since it's cheaper.
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.
The low teaser rates for consumers available just a month ago have disappeared, making it impossible for buyers who average about 1,000 kilowatts a month to lock in a three-month rate for less than 18 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to PowertoChoose.org, the price comparison tool run by the Public Utility Commission of Texas. A year ago, Texans shopping for a three-month contract could find rates that were less than 7 cents a kilowattt hour while earlier this spring, bargains were still available for less than a nickel a kilowatt hour.
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.
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The Bayou City is diverse in its population, culture and electricity rates. Houston attracts college students who attend well-known schools in the area such as Texas Southern University, University of Houston and Rice University. Also, Houston's entertainment and year-round events appeal to young couples and families. Attend an Astros game in Minute Maid Park or visit the Houston Zoo – there's always something happening in H-town.