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.
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.
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 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.”
Electricity or Gas Supplier License/Order #s: CA 1359, CTA0006, CTA0032; CT 01-06, 06-07-11, 06-02-17; DE 00-162; DC GA2012-12, GA06-2, EA01-5, GA 11-5, EA 06-5-4, GA03-5; GA GM-46; IL 02-0489, 03-0320, 16-0205,17-0330, 07-0498; IA G-0010; ME 2000-989, 2002-64; MD IR-3645, IR-655, IR-311, IR-500, IR-3644, IR-228; MA GS-053, GS-030, CS-015, CS-045; MI U-14066, U-14867, U-13660, U-13245; NE NG-0043; NH DM 17-024; NJ GSL-0074, GSL-0101, ESL-0016, ESL-0066, GSL-0132, GSL-0099, GSL-0150, ESL-0171; OH, 09-153G, 00-003E, 00-013E; OR ES4 (12-162); PA A-2016-2542899, A-125095, A-110036, A-2016-2547424, A-110110; RI 2379(Z1), D-96-6(E); TX 10014; VA G-26, G-34, G-36, G-51, E-11A
On the one hand, long-term, fixed-rate (contract) plans offer stability in pricing. If energy supply costs suddenly go up in your area, you won’t be left paying more than what you bargained for. You’ll have peace-of-mind. If you want to switch out of your contract before it ends with a lower cost plan, you’ll likely face a cancellation fee (early termination fee).