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 .


In summary, fixed-rate plans provide a level of certainty and stability in your energy charge since the price will not fluctuate over the life of your contract. If prices suddenly spike, you are protected because your rate is locked in. The flip side is that if rates drop over the life of your contract, you’ll be stuck paying the higher rate. You can incur steep cancellation fees if you change electricity plans or providers before the end of your contract term.
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.
“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 increase in retail rates come as companies prepare for surging prices in the wholesale electricity markets where they buy their power. Forecasts of higher than normal temperatures and record power demand are coinciding with the shutdown of at least three coal-fired plants, leading to concerns that temporary shortages on the hottest summer days could send wholesale prices, which typically average less than $50 per megawatt hour, spiking to $3,000 per megawatt hour or higher. (A megawatt hour is 1,000 kilowatt hours.)
Patrick Mays, an engineer for an oil and gas company in Houston, recently went shopping for a new electricity plan and found that the best deal available would cost about 55 percent more than what he’s paying, boosting his average rate to 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour from 6.1 cents under his expiring 12-month contract. The power bills for his 2,000-square foot home will climb an average of $30 a month over the year, he said, but he will take the brunt of the rate increase during the hot summer when he estimates his monthly bill will top out at $186, nearly double the $95 he paid last year.
Prepaid electricity plans are yet another option available to Texas customers. Prepaid plans let you avoid credit checks and deposits by pre-paying for your electricity. Prepaid electricity plans typically do not have a fixed duration and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. Shopping for prepaid electricity can often yield relatively cheap electricity with no deposit. See Prepaid Electricity: Is It Right For Me? for more.

Prices are expected to go up so quickly that Direct Energy has stopped selling its "Power-to-Go" plan to new customers this summer, a prepaid plan that changes rates each month depending on wholesale prices. Instead, the company is encouraging its customers to lock in for longer periods of time. Customers who used up to 2,000 kilowatts each month could get a 12-month contract for 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour in May compared to the same plan for 9.1 cents per kilowatt hour one year earlier.
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.
*Offer valid for new residential customers in Texas only. Provisioned smart meter required. Free power begins on Fridays at 6:00 PM and ends Sunday at 11:59 PM. To utilize all features of the Echo Dot, you will need an 'always on' Wi-Fi internet service. If you cancel your plan early there's a fee of $135. You cannot return your Echo Dot to avoid the early cancellation fee. Terms and Conditions apply. All Amazon trademarks and copyrights are property of Amazon.com or its affiliates. The Echo Dot is provided by Direct Energy, Amazon is not a sponsor of this energy plan offer.
*Offer valid for new residential customers in Texas only. Provisioned smart meter required. Free power begins on Fridays at 6:00 PM and ends Sunday at 11:59 PM. To utilize all features of the Echo Dot, you will need an 'always on' Wi-Fi internet service. If you cancel your plan early there's a fee of $135. You cannot return your Echo Dot to avoid the early cancellation fee. Terms and Conditions apply. All Amazon trademarks and copyrights are property of Amazon.com or its affiliates. The Echo Dot is provided by Direct Energy, Amazon is not a sponsor of this energy plan offer.
Gone are the days when you had to contact electric companies to discover their rates, and negotiate a better deal on your own. Today, Vault Electricity does the work for you, handling the entire process of finding the best Texas electricity rates and plans from providers that have a pedigree of business stability, customer service, eco-friendliness, and financial transparency. This allows you to shop for electricity in just a few minutes, right from your computer.
2of 3Cattle roam on a mesa near Iraan, Texas on the site of the Desert Sky Wind Farm. According to website Desert Sky Wind Farm® is a 160.5-megawatt (160,500-kilowatt) wind power generation facility located near the far West Texas town of Iraan, in Pecos County. The site includes 107 turbines, each rated at 1.5 megawatts (1,500 kilowatts) spread over a 15-square-mile area on Indian Mesa.Photo: John Davenport, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

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You can sort, filter, and shop by pricing at YOUR specific usage level, which lets you shop and compare electricity plans based on the rates you’ll actually experience on your bill, inclusive of hidden fees and taxes. This ensures you’re not misled by the cheaper rates often advertised by electric providers…those “teaser rates” associated with higher usage levels that many households never enjoy because their usage level never reaches that pricing tier.
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