Business specialists say that retail electricity companies follow a model used in other mature industries, such as banking, cell phone services and cable television, where the market is saturated and the main way to grow is by poaching customers from competitors. In all these industries, companies use cut-rate promotional offers to win customers and then hope inertia sets in once promotions expire and prices increase.
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.
But in Houston, where there are 52 companies on Power to Choose each offering several different power plans, there might be too many choices. Economists have found that when confronted with a large number of choices, most people tend to do nothing. In one well-known behavioral economics experiment, researchers set out six samples of fruit jams at a grocery store, enticing 30 percent of shoppers to buy the product. But when they increased the number of samples to 24, only 3 percent of shoppers made a purchase.
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.
The city of Houston has a long and rich history. Named after General Sam Houston, it is the largest city in the state of Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States. Home to 26 fortune 500 companies, affordable housing, world-class museums and cultural landmarks, it’s no wonder that the city is ranked one of the best places to live in the state of Texas.
With more than a decade in business as a quality electricity provider based in Houston, Spark Energy works to consistently deliver reliable, low-cost electricity, community support and a better customer experience to hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers across sixteen states. Why do we do it? Because we are committed to being the best electricity supplier in the country. In Houston, that means:
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.
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.
As a result, power companies have shut down Texas coal plants unable to compete with lower-cost generators. Meanwhile, the low electricity prices of recent years — a function of cheap natural gas — and small profits have discouraged companies from investing in new power plants. ERCOT, which oversees about 90 percent of the state’s power grid, said power reserves that are called on when demand peaks on the hottest summer days have shrunk to the lowest levels since Texas deregulated power markets in 2002.
If you live in the greater Houston area, there are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business. Many of these providers have websites that are confusing and difficult to navigate, their rates buried in misleading advertising and dense jargon. Who has the time to sort through and keep track of options across all these different sites?