Should you choose a short-term, long-term, month-to-month, or prepaid plan? The short answer: it depends on your specific needs. How long do you anticipate living at your location? Are you deciding in the peak season (summer in Houston) or off season? All electricity providers in Houston offer a broad selection of plans for different contract lengths. Many also offer month-to-month and prepaid electricity plans. The bottom line is that everyone’s needs are different and all contract term lengths offer advantages and disadvantages.
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.
There are approximately 5,000 businesses associated with the energy industry in Houston, which is why the city is known as the world's "Energy Capital." Houston is home to more than 2 million people and is one of the most populated areas in the United States. City homeowners, renters and business owners get to choose between energy companies in Houston to supply their electricity. In Houston, one electricity supply rate won't fit the needs of all energy users. Therefore, it's important for consumers to use electric choice to shop for the best plan for them.
That’s what Josh Burdick thinks when looks around for electricity deals on Power to Choose for his 1,400 square foot West University condo. But Burdick, 45, an information technology project manager for an oil company in Houston, figured that he wouldn’t end up saving that much. He signed up with Reliant 11 years ago and has never left, paying anywhere from $120 to $150 a month during the summer. He is not even on a plan, instead paying month-to-month market rates, which typically cost more than longer term retail contracts.
TXU is high because they charge their customers for the "fuel" to run their power plants - that's what the supervisor told us when we called to complain about my godmother's bill. Her actual usuage was $350 and they charged her an additional $350. And she didn't understand the bill so she had been paying it for months until we started looking at it. They are a rip off. Would never recommend them.
Business specialists say that retail electricity companies follow a model used in other mature industries, such as banking, cell phone services and cable television, where the market is saturated and the main way to grow is by poaching customers from competitors. In all these industries, companies use cut-rate promotional offers to win customers and then hope inertia sets in once promotions expire and prices increase.
You have the power to choose the best power company in Houston for your needs before settling into your new home. A fixed supply rate will give you the same rate per kWh every month. It won’t fluctuate with the energy market or change during your contract. Most Houston energy providers offer some type of fixed-rate supply plans. Another popular option is a variable supply rate. Some people prefer variable supply rates because they can change along with market prices. When market prices go up your rate per kWh may increase, but when they decrease you could benefit from a lower supply rate. SaveOnEnergy.com can help you make sense of your options.
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.
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.
Even though customers in deregulated Texas markets routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated and regulated market has shrunk to 8.8 percent. In 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
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.