Twenty-nine states have deregulated electricity, natural gas or both. That allows you to shop for the supply portion of your bill from alternative providers who may offer rates lower than the default supplier – usually a utility. Delivery services and billing will remain the responsibility of the local utility as they own the power lines and wires that keep the lights on.
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.
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.
Several states have Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) laws that allow local governments to pool their community’s electricity need in order to purchase power on their behalf. While savings is not always guaranteed, many municipalities are able to obtain discounted electricity prices. You’ll have to check with your state regulatory commission. You can get started by clicking on your state in this map.
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.