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Texas consumers can save hundreds of dollars each year by shopping for electricity, but most don’t seek out better deals, overwhelmed by the number and complexity of power plans on the state’s Power to Choose website, wary of fine print in too-good-to-be true offers, or just too busy to spend time calculating whether free nights and weekends offset the higher rates they pay during the week.
Since 2002, Amigo Energy has been one of the best electric companies in Texas. Not only that, but more recently we’ve received far fewer Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC) complaints than most other large residential electricity providers across the state.2 In fact, our customer service gets even better over the phone because our call-in customers have yet to file a PUC complaint this year.3 This ain’t our first rodeo—with over 15 years of experience and a track record of reliable service, you can trust Amigo Energy as your retail electricity provider.
Texas deregulated most of the state's electricity markets in 2002, a move aimed at lowering electricity costs by letting consumers choose their own electric power providers and their own plans. Some parts of Texas continued to be regulated, including those that get power from municipal utilities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities that operate outside the state's primary power grid.
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.
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.
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.
Although there is electricity running to the house, the account is not in the home owner’s name – it’s in the builder’s name since, technically, the builder owns the property until you’ve paid him in full. Another thing a lot of first-time home owners don’t realize is that Houston electricity retailers often give preferred rates to corporate clients like housing contractors. Like many other producers, Retail Electric Providers like bulk purchases and you can’t get much more bulk purchasing than trucks full of power tools, spot heaters, loud radios, directional lighting, hand tools, battery chargers, and so on! This means you can’t even gauge how much your electric bill will be based on prior bills because the usage pattern is not typical and, on top of that, you’re probably not going to get the same rate as your builder did.
Prices on longer term plans of a year or more have also risen significantly. Retail electricity providers are reluctant to discuss their prices — especially rising ones — but the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, a trade group, estimated that the rate on a one-year fixed price offer on the Power to Choose website has climbed more than 20 percent over the past year to an average of 11.1 cents per kilowatt hour.
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.
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*Save Over £390 - Over 10% of the estimated quotations raised by users of the Simply Switch Website to switch their gas and electricity suppliers between 01/02/2015 - 01/06/2015 produced a predicted annual saving of £390 or more. Current combined spend for gas and electricity of between £84 and £6869. Savings may have included Direct Debit and online discounts. Energy prices vary by usage and postcode.
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.