The threat of price spikes have been long in the making, the result of changing economics of power production. The shale drilling boom produced record amounts of natural gas, which pushed prices to all-time lows and made gas-fired plants cheaper to operate than coal. Renewable energy such as wind is also producing abundant amounts of electricity at a lower cost than coal.
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.
Energy sellers must provide collateral to ERCOT to cover expected future costs of buying wholesale electricity and if the companies don’t have enough capital, they get shut down. Breeze Energy, a Dallas-based electricity retailer that sold wind-energy plans to 9,800 customers including many in the Houston area, got caught in that financial squeeze when it defaulted on its collateral obligations.
Another struggle Houston natives deal with year-round is insane humidity levels. Yearly, the average humidity level for mornings in Houston is 90%. The afternoon average, measured at 3 pm, is 55%, so the average humidity throughout the day is 75%. On top of the already intense heat, humidity makes the air feel warmer than it truly is. To beat the heat, Houston cooling systems will have to work overtime, especially on days that are exceptionally hot and humid. With humidity in the air, the cooling system has to work extra hard to compensate for the extra moisture in the air. This can cause an increased cost on your energy bill.
Business specialists say that retail electricity companies follow a model used in other mature industries, such as banking, cell phone services and cable television, where the market is saturated and the main way to grow is by poaching customers from competitors. In all these industries, companies use cut-rate promotional offers to win customers and then hope inertia sets in once promotions expire and prices increase.
It would be impossible to find any Houston electricity plan that doesn’t get at least part of its electricity from renewable energy sources. Traditionally, renewable energy has been more expensive than other energy sources. But that gap has now narrowed substantially. Green energy plans are competitive with traditional plans and often can be found with cheaper electricity rates than non-green plans.
The increase in retail rates come as companies prepare for surging prices in the wholesale electricity markets where they buy their power. Forecasts of higher than normal temperatures and record power demand are coinciding with the shutdown of at least three coal-fired plants, leading to concerns that temporary shortages on the hottest summer days could send wholesale prices, which typically average less than $50 per megawatt hour, spiking to $3,000 per megawatt hour or higher. (A megawatt hour is 1,000 kilowatt hours.)
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.
*Offer valid for new residential customers in Texas only. Provisioned smart meter required. Certain eligibility requirements, fees, taxes, terms and conditions apply. A base charge of $9.95 is included in the average price for this plan, as well as other recurring charges, excluding state and local sales taxes and Miscellaneous Gross Receipts Tax Reimbursement. This 12-month term fixed price will only vary if there are changes in TDU, regulatory fees or a law that requires new or modified costs outside of our control. If you cancel before end of term, there is a cancellation fee of $135. You may cancel without penalty if you move and provide a forwarding address at least 14 days prior to your move date. Please see the Electricity Facts Label for more information and other applicable fees for this plan. Most free hours electricity claim as of March 15, 2019 when compared to other retail electric providers offers listed on the powertochoose.org website. Subject to change.