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.
How did we get this number?This total is calculated by taking the wattage and daily usage of your common appliances and converting this into a monthly kilowatt per hour (kWh) usage rate. To figure out the estimated cost based on this rate, multiply your kWh per month by the cost of your energy (an average rate is $.12 per kWh). You can learn more about calculating your energy consumption by following the steps on this page.
Twenty-nine states have deregulated electricity, natural gas or both. That allows you to shop for the supply portion of your bill from alternative providers who may offer rates lower than the default supplier – usually a utility. Delivery services and billing will remain the responsibility of the local utility as they own the power lines and wires that keep the lights on.
It’s very important to do your own research to understand the business focus of the company you are considering, as well as tax advantages (and possible disadvantages) if the company is a limited partnership. For example, Seadrill Ltd. SDRL, -4.77%  provides offshore-drilling services worldwide. Seadrill Partners LLC SDLP, -3.52%  operates offshore-drilling rigs under specific contracts with several major oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM, -2.78%  and Chevron Corp. CVX, -2.81%  
Twenty bucks compared to a $2,000 bill? Not much to write home about, but hey — it’s free money. And, true, you’ll still get some free money when you use less energy, but rewards only really seem reward-y if you're shelling out big bucks. That same Direct Energy plan only yields about $6 in Plenti points per year if you use 500 kWh of electricity each month.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) does it for you. When you sign up for a plan with a new provider, ERCOT will send you a mailer confirming the switch. You have three days upon receiving the mailer to change your mind. If you don't, you'll have a new provider within seven days, and ERCOT will notify your old provider. Just remember, if you abandon a contract before it's complete, you will be on the hook for any fees or penalties detailed in its Terms of Service.
Keeping on top:  With deregulation, a whole host of electric resellers jumped into the market because there’s a whole lot of electricity to sell:  if Texas were a country, it’d be the 11th largest electricity consumer in the world!  Just by itself, it uses as much electricity as Spain or Great Britain!  That means there’s a whole lot of information you have to find, absorb, and process to make sure you’re getting the best rate for your needs.
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