1.     Contracts:  Before, there were no contracts.  You signed up or you didn’t.  When it’s the only game in town, you have to play by their rules.  Nowadays, you’ll see these ultra-fabulous rates bandied about but it’s only by carefully scrutinizing the fine print that you’ll discover those wonderful rates come with a one-year lock-down or other catches.
Fixed energy plans offer you a chance to compare energy rates in your home or business energy market.  You then choose an energy rate and plan that best works for you.  When you choose a fixed rate option your rate never changes for the duration that you choose.  You enjoy the same prices for your electricity or natural gas service no matter what the energy markets do.
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.

Texas electricity deregulation has given millions of Houston residents and businesses the power to choose the cheapest electricity rate. According to ERCOT, over 92% of Texas homes and businesses who live in deregulated areas have switched electric companies since deregulation began in 2002. Even though electric choice in Texas has been hugely successful for energy savings, customers are still confused by the options, terminology, and overall process of switching electric providers.
Minimum Usage Fees: Often set at or around 1,000 kWh/month, these fees mean you’ll always pay for at least that amount — even if you only use, say, 800 kWh of electricity some months. It sounds nasty, but it’s only something to be concerned about if your electricity bills historically show you hover right around that minimum use threshold. If you’re electricity use always exceeds that amount, it’s like it’s not even there.
If you think you have to pay the rates your current electricity provider charges, we have good news. The state of Texas allows you to choose which electricity provider you use. This means you can select a provider that has the cheapest Texas electric rates in your area and the best plan for your needs, whether you need a better deal for your residence, your business, or both. Thousands of consumers and businesses that have used our electricity rate comparison process agree that, when shopping for commercial electricity or residential electricity rates and plans, Vault Electricity is the one-stop source for the best options from top electric providers.
And just like with any plan, it’s worth it to do the math to see how different scenarios will affect your bill. Take, for example, a home in Sweetwater that uses about 1,000 kWh of energy per month, and is interested in the Texas Essentials 12 plan. Zero percent renewable energy is the cheapest option — but by committing to a $5 monthly charge for its 100 percent “JustGreen” option, it’s actually cheaper than the 60 percent hybrid renewable option.
In summary, fixed-rate plans provide a level of certainty and stability in your energy charge since the price will not fluctuate over the life of your contract. If prices suddenly spike, you are protected because your rate is locked in. The flip side is that if rates drop over the life of your contract, you’ll be stuck paying the higher rate. You can incur steep cancellation fees if you change electricity plans or providers before the end of your contract term.
But competition didn't necessarily end up cutting prices, according to the report. One contributing factor is confusion among customers as they try to choose among scores of retail electricity providers and the overwhelming variation of plans, leading many to just stick with familiar companies rather than look for better deals, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power .
As they’re advertised, the Digital Discount plan appears to save you $4 — but only if you use 32 percent of your energy on the weekends, which is the stat Reliant used to create the average price it advertises. Say you often travel for business during the week, and are only home cranking the air conditioner on weekends. If your energy use skews to 55 percent weekend use (for Reliant, that means 8 pm on Friday through 12 am Monday), suddenly Truly Free Weekends becomes a much better deal.
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%  
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.
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