“The whole business model of the industry is to get people in on the promotional rates and then jack up their rate when the promotional rates end,” said Trent Crow, a former JP Morgan energy trader and founder of Real Simple Energy, a website that helps consumers find low-cost electricity plans. “I don’t think people realize how much they are overpaying.”
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.
Houston is becoming much greener, and all signs indicate that the city will continue to be a leader in the renewable energy sector. Green energy in Houston is widely available for consumers. Choose Energy has partnered with Amigo Energy and Green Mountain Energy, two trusted green energy suppliers in Houston. The city's energy efficiency rank typically falls within the top ten, and no other municipality buys more renewable energy. Recently, Causes.com rated the city the 10th greenest in the nation.
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.
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1. After your contract ends, the energy company will send you a notification of your rate increasing to a variable rate (which usually translates to 2-3 cents higher/kWh by a certain date). They are supposed to notify you of this change. I've noticed as a customer, we get short-changed of one month from the contract rate (if you signed for 7 cents for 6 months, you'll only get that for 5 months). If you don't call, your rate goes up significantly if you don't call to change to a cheaper contract. Tell them you want the cheapest rate or you will cancel with their company.
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.
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.
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.
Utility companies are responsible for transmission and delivery of electricity even in energy deregulated parts of Texas and should be contacted in the event of a power outage. Your retail energy supplier may provide you competitive electric rates or exceptional customer service, but they cannot repair power lines or restore your service. In the case of an emergency, contact:
Residential and business consumers in deregulated energy markets have the power to choose their energy supplier. The power to choose gives consumers the opportunity to compare suppliers and find energy plans that satisfy their usage needs and budget requirements. Whether in a deregulated city in Texas, New York, Ohio or another state, you can shop for electricity or natural gas and find the best plan for you!
REPs sell electricity rates to Houston energy consumers, but transmission and distribution service providers (TDSPs) deliver the supply of electricity. In Houston, CenterPoint Energy serves as the area's TDSP and works with about 85 REPs. If your power goes out, immediately report the issue to CenterPoint Energy, not your REP. Use the following phone numbers to get in touch with your Houston TDSP.