There are a variety of different types of gas and electricity plan that are currently out there for prospective customers to consider. Some plans offer fixed rate deals , these allow you to be sheltered from price rises over an agreed period of time. Other plans allow you to manage your entire account online, making it easier and more efficient for you to handle your energy supply.
Where should you shop for electricity? Houstonians have the power to choose from an overwhelming variety of energy suppliers, plans, and options. If you live in the Houston metro area and your local electric utility is CenterPoint, over 50 different retail electricity providers currently offer electricity plans in your area. Each of these electricity providers offer sites, tools, and information on how to switch plans and providers. However, their information is often filled with electricity rates that are difficult to compare because of things like introductory rates, bill credits, narrow usage levels, unexpected fees, and legalese buried in the EFLs. Fortunately, Houston homes and businesses have electricity shopping options that make the process much simpler.
The complaints filed against providers aren't a perfect mirror of the J.D. Power customer satisfactions scores. Just Energy, which earned only two J.D. Power Circles and earned the second-lowest score, had only 21 complaints recorded with the Public Utility Commission. But it's helpful to view these complaints in aggregate: Over 50 percent of the 1,119 total complaints fall under "billing" — another reason to seek out a provider with high customer satisfaction in that area in particular.
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Although conventional long-term contracts may offer you very low kilowatt-hour prices, these contracts also impose many obligations and hefty penalties for non-compliance. No deposit electric plans tend to have a slightly higher energy price that long-term contracts, but allow more freedom in how you pay for your electricity. The most relevant differences between no deposit electricity plans and conventional contracts are summarized in the following table:
The Texas Senate Bill 7, passed in 2002, gave 5.6 million Texans the power to choose a retail electric provider (REP) to supply electricity to their home or business. This bill facilitated a competitive energy marketplace that 85 percent of Texans can capitalize on today. Energy choice is available to residents in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth as well as other cities in Texas.
On the other hand, month-to-month variable rate (no-contract) plans don’t have cancellation fees. You won’t be penalized if you find a better deal elsewhere and want to make another switch.  And, you won’t be stuck paying more than you should be if the market rate for electricity trends down.  But, if it goes up, you’ll be paying more than your in-contract neighbors, and you’ll likely want to shop around again for a better deal.
Even though customers in deregulated cities routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated cities like Houston and regulated cities like San Antonio have dwindled to the narrowest point ever to 8.8 percent. Back in 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
Once you sign up for your new energy plan, your local utility will be notified of the change and begin your service from the alternative supplier at the beginning of your next billing cycle. Upon starting your energy supply service, your utility company will include this charge on your energy bill and continue to charge for the delivery service portion of your bill. Why? Because although your supplier may offer you a competitive rate for electricity supply, your utility is still in charge of the infrastructure that delivers energy to your home – such as power lines and energy meters.
If you live in the greater Houston area, there are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business. Many of these providers have websites that are confusing and difficult to navigate, their rates buried in misleading advertising and dense jargon. Who has the time to sort through and keep track of options across all these different sites?
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