Since 2002, the majority of Texans have had to choose their own Retail Electric Provider (REP) – the middleman that buys electricity wholesale, then sells it to you, the consumer. According to the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ 2017 report, the Lone Star state is “the national leader in competitive residential, commercial, and industrial offerings,” which means there are well over 200 providers bidding for your attention.
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The growth in wind power and natural gas fueled power will offset the loss in coal over time but for the summer of 2018, expected record demand for electricity will converge with power plant closures to put a squeeze on wholesale electricity rates. This, in turn, will cause the retail electricity prices paid by most Texas consumers to increase. The rise in wholesale rates could be particularly dangerous for consumers who have electricity plans that are tied directly to the wholesale price of electricity.
Utilities, or energy companies, in Maryland offer customers information to know how much they are spending on electric supply each month. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., for example, provides a tool known as the Standard Offer Service, which shows customers how much they can expect to pay for energy supply each month. Current supply rates show that BGE customers will pay 8.225 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). ChooseEnergy.com, as of mid-May, offers a 36-month plan that could save 13 percent on that rate now.
Using an average of 1,063 kWh of power each month, Houston’s electricity consumption rates exceed the national average by over 100 kWh. As a city however, it does manage to maintain a lower monthly energy charge than the rest of the US, incurring an average fee of $99 in comparison to the $112 national monthly average. To further save on their plans each month, residents can choose from a selection of Texas-based energy suppliers and service plans.
Unlike with long-term plans, monthly, variable rate (no-contract) plans have no cancellation fees. You won’t have to pay a penalty if you decide to take your business elsewhere because you found a better deal. Plus, you won’t be left paying more than you should if the market rate for energy trends down. However, if the market prices rise, you’ll have to pay more than those who are in-contract.
In Houston, 0% of people have switched to a plan that has some renewable energy component to it. Another 0% have switched to a plan that is partially renewable, while 0% have switched to a plan that powers homes completely by renewable electricity. This of course means that 100% of people have remained on a plan powered by traditional sources of electricity such as coal or nuclear power.
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 .
On the one hand, long-term, fixed-rate (contract) plans offer stability in pricing. If energy supply costs suddenly go up in your area, you won’t be left paying more than what you bargained for. You’ll have peace-of-mind. If you want to switch out of your contract before it ends with a lower cost plan, you’ll likely face a cancellation fee (early termination fee).