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.

There’s some smart money placing big bets on a rebound for oil. Blackstone Group LP BX, -5.27%  President Hamilton “Tony” James said last month that the company was “scrambling” to invest up to $10 billion in energy companies, according to Bloomberg. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman said during the company’s earnings call on Jan. 29 that the majority of Blackstone’s energy investments were “oil-price agnostic, including energy-transportation infrastructure where we have off-take agreements, merchant power, renewables and other types of energy-oriented investing.”
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Which ones the best? Like all things energy, it depends. Do you prefer predictability, or do you like the idea of potentially saving some cash by monitoring the market? Our (albeit conservative) recommendation: Fixed rate is probably best. Energy prices are on the rise — the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a 3 percent increase in residential electricity prices in 2018.
CenterPoint Intelligent Energy Solutions LLC, IES, which manages TrueCost, is not the same legal entity as CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp. (CERC) or CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC (CEHE), nor is IES regulated by the Railroad Commission of Texas or the Public Utility Commission of Texas. You do not have to buy products or services from IES in order to continue to receive quality regulated services from CERC or CEHE.
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%  
Knowing how much electricity you use each month is important to finding the cheapest electricity plan. For Houstonians, usage is typically the lowest in the winter and highest in the summer. Your specific usage levels can be determined by simply looking back at previous electric bills and finding the kWh used. To avoid electric bill surprises during the peak summer months, you’ll need to accurately know your peak electricity usage which typically occurs in August.
In Texas' deregulated energy market, customers must pick their own electricity provider, all of which offer different rates per hour of power usage. You can shop for other power plans on the state-run website,  www.powertochoose.org, or try an alternative website, like www.texaspowerguide.com to help find the cheapest plan. Keep in mind that many retail electricity contracts carry penalties for early termination.
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%  
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.

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).
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