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.
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.
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.
If you’re on a fixed rate tariff with your current supplier, check to see if there’s an exit fee for leaving the contract early. If there is, you’ll need to factor this cost into your price comparison as it could swallow up some of the potential savings. If you can supply your tariff name when you get a quote, we can take your tariff into account when showing you the savings you could make.
Even though customers in deregulated Texas markets routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated and regulated market has shrunk to 8.8 percent. In 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
Deregulation restructured the way the energy industry functions. Think of the energy industry in three steps: sales, transmission and delivery. Previously, all three steps were carried out by one single Irving wires company (or utility service). While the primary utility company still carries out the transmission of energy and delivery to residences, the responsibility for selling the energy plans has been opened up to competition among supplier companies. These suppliers attempt to win business from Irving residents by offering cheaper rates and better plan terms.
Early in 2002, legislation known as Senate Bill 7, changed the energy market by deregulating the sales and pricing of electricity plans. This bill included the Irving area. While a single utility company still transports electricity from the plant to homes, residents of Irving can now choose what company sells them their electricity plan. These sales companies are known as energy suppliers.
FirstEnergy’s online shopping experience is woefully outdated, which makes it harder than usual to get to the fine print. You’ll need to take the first step of signing up — follow the Enroll Now! Link — to get “Terms and Conditions” to appear. The website also pays the typical lip service to the green movement, but FirstEnergy plants generate over 95 percent of the company’s total electricity from conventional fuels.
There are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business on any given day in Texas. Many of these electric companies have websites that are confusing and nearly impossible to navigate, their rates and fees hidden by dense industry jargon and misleading advertising. Who has the spare the time to sort through the choices spread out over all these different sites and companies?
All forms of electricity generation have positive and negative aspects. Technology will probably eventually declare the most preferred forms, but in a market economy, the options with less overall costs generally will be chosen above other sources. It is not clear yet which form can best meet the necessary energy demands or which process can best solve the demand for electricity. There are indications that renewable energy and distributed generation are becoming more viable in economic terms. A diverse mix of generation sources reduces the risks of electricity price spikes.
When we looked at each provider’s offerings, we focused on plans with innovative pricing or attractive deals, then did the math to find out which would pay off over time. To our surprise, the results were all over the board. Green plans weren’t always more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Sometimes a fluctuating variable rate is still cheaper in the long run. Our takeaway: It pays to shop around. We’ll walk you through our analysis — so you can do the same as you compare rates.
Of course, choosing a new electricity supplier or natural gas supplier does not mean you are replacing your utility. Your utility will still deliver whatever energy supply you choose, safely and reliably. Since your utility company depends on where you live, you don't have to worry about choosing a utility company. In general, utilities are responsible for maintaining the energy infrastructure. If you experience a power outage or see a downed power line, call your utility company. These are listed in the Utility Companies column below.