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.
There was a time when electricity was electricity.  Like so many other places around America, in Houston, electricity didn’t mean “cheap electricity”.  But you moved into your home and you called the utility and they turned on the power and the bill came in and you paid it every month.  Oh, sure, you might grumble at the amount but then you’d go around and yell at the kids for leaving the lights on and the TV blaring with nobody in the room or maybe you’d look into buying more energy-efficient appliances.  When it came down to it, the Bill was the Bill.  Either you paid the bill or you ate dry packet meals, had cold showers, and watched TV by peering through the neighbor’s window after dark (preferably once they’d turned the TV on).  What’s that?  You want cheap electricity?  Sure thing:  call 1-800-WHO-CARES any time during regular business hours of 2:17am to 3:04am Sundays only.
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