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.
Should you choose a short-term, long-term, month-to-month, or prepaid plan? The short answer: it depends on your specific needs. How long do you anticipate living at your location? Are you deciding in the peak season (summer in Houston) or off season? All electricity providers in Houston offer a broad selection of plans for different contract lengths. Many also offer month-to-month and prepaid electricity plans. The bottom line is that everyone’s needs are different and all contract term lengths offer advantages and disadvantages.
Statement regarding savings: How your price compares. This is usually a generic statement that you may or may not be getting a better price than you would from the utility company, also known as the Electric Distribution Company, or EDC. Your local EDC sets a “price to compare” and any competitors’ plan may be lower or higher by several cents a kWh.
2. Fraud: Too many people have been victimized by glib sales reps with promises of cheap electricity flowing in an unending stream only to discover that, as is so often true, “it ain’t necessarily so”. They’ve been locked into unwanted term contracts or there’s a catch – some utilities will give you the great rate only if you meet a usage minimum; basically, the “rate” is, in actuality, a “bulk purchase” discounted fee – or they paid a deposit never to hear from the rep again.
As the third-largest coal-producing state in the nation, a sizable portion of everyone’s electricity comes from coal, regardless of the plan type you choose. But times are changing: Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requires that 18 percent of all electricity sold by 2021 be sourced from renewable energy. The state subsidizes the increase of renewable energy, and by opting for a green plan, your electricity payments do the same.
This company has more plan variety than any other we looked at, though most of them seem more flashy than functional. And some seem weirdly niche — like "Connect to Comfort," a 24-month plan that comes with a Hive Hub and a Hive Active Thermostat, smart home devices that allow you to control your heat and A/C via app. Like many of Direct Energy’s plans, how good of a deal it is depends on how closely its offers align with your established habits.
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.
Here’s something to watch out for: Constellation automatically re-ups your contract when your present contract expires, no matter which plan you choose. It’ll send you two notifications prior to re-enrollment, but if you miss those prompts, you have just until the first meter read of your new contract to exit it. After that, the $150 termination fee will apply. Constellation Energy and Just Energy are the only two companies in our lineup with this policy. The others allow your service to lapse back to your utility company if you don’t personally re-enroll.
Consumers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi were promised bargains on electricity when the Texas Legislature deregulated the electricity market. But 16 years later they're still paying more for electricity than their counterparts in cities Texas lawmakers exempted from deregulation such as Austin and San Antonio, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power which analyzed federal electricity pricing data.
Variable rate plans are always month-to-month, save for three-month intro specials in which your rate stays the same for those early months. Fixed rate plans, on the other hand, are available for periods ranging from six to 36 months. The contract lengths, and how that length influences the price per kWh rate, varies enormously from company to company. Some companies offer lower rates when you enroll for longer periods. Others raise the rate slightly. The competing rationale: You will be paying them for longer so you get a break, or you have that price locked in when energy rates inevitably rise. One rule of thumb — the longer the contract, the higher the cancellation fee.
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.
In deregulated markets such as Texas and Maryland, the state government may require the incumbent utility energy provider to allow for unlimited competition within the marketplace, where the consumer is free to choose any electricity provider. Electricity provider switching is only practical if a customer is either buying from a utility or is at the end of a fixed-price contract with a provider.
REPs sell electricity rates to Houston energy consumers, but transmission and distribution service providers (TDSPs) deliver the supply of electricity. In Houston, CenterPoint Energy serves as the area's TDSP and works with about 85 REPs. If your power goes out, immediately report the issue to CenterPoint Energy, not your REP. Use the following phone numbers to get in touch with your Houston TDSP.
The mid to late 1880s saw the introduction of alternating current (AC) systems in Europe and the U.S. AC power had an advantage in that transformers, installed at power stations, could be used to raise the voltage from the generators, and transformers at local substations could reduce voltage to supply loads. Increasing the voltage reduced the current in the transmission and distribution lines and hence the size of conductors and distribution losses. This made it more economical to distribute power over long distances. Generators (such as hydroelectric sites) could be located far from the loads. AC and DC competed for a while, during a period called the War of Currents. The DC system was able to claim slightly greater safety, but this difference was not great enough to overwhelm the enormous technical and economic advantages of alternating current which eventually won out.