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.
Then, in 2002, Texas deregulated the electricity market and everybody cheered! Except that, sure, deregulation opened up the market to competition that may (or may not) have resulted in lower rates, but it introduced a whole host of other issues. These issues may not have been factors before but now they’re critical when you’re on the look-out for cheap Houston electricity providers.
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.
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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.
The local electric company is the utility – that’s the company who owns the infrastructure, including the poles and power lines that deliver electricity to your home. They are who you call if your power goes out or there's an emergency. But in almost every city in Texas, you must choose another company to supply that energy, called a Retail Electric Provider (REP). These REPs, like Spark Energy, allow you to choose electricity plans that offer competitive prices and plans to meet your needs.
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.
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.
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.