Consumers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi were promised bargains on electricity when the Texas Legislature deregulated the electricity market. But 16 years later they're still paying more for electricity than their counterparts in cities Texas lawmakers exempted from deregulation such as Austin and San Antonio, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power which analyzed federal electricity pricing data.
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.
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.
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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.
The cheapest rates are going to have shorter contract terms. For instance, a 3 month term is cheaper than a 6 month term and a 6 month term is cheaper than a 12-14 month term. So if you are able to remember to call before your contract expires (they will notify via mail you that your contract is about to expire), then the 3 or 6-month term is your best bet. If you don't call to renew/cancel, you will be charged a much higher variable rate on a month-to-month basis. If this is you, sign for a 12-month contract term with the cheapest rate.
Ready to shop? Below you’ll find available electricity rates in Houston. Search for plans by rate, term length or brand. If you have an apartment with a short lease, a supply plan with a shorter length might be the best for you. However, if you own a home and don’t plan on moving for a while, you can look for long-term plans. You have the power to choose!
One way NRG has expanded its customer base — it has about 30 percent of the retail electricity market in Texas compared to about 20 percent a decade ago —is by putting employees into retail settings such as grocery stores and discount stores to meet with consumers about the company’s electricity plan offerings. The face-to-face interactions have helped the company explain the range of current offerings, said Killinger. NRG also emphasizes the importance of buying power from a company with enough financial heft that it will be around in the future.