The city of Houston has a long and rich history. Named after General Sam Houston, it is the largest city in the state of Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States. Home to 26 fortune 500 companies, affordable housing, world-class museums and cultural landmarks, it’s no wonder that the city is ranked one of the best places to live in the state of Texas.
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Some good news: According to J.D. Power’s 2016 survey on retail electric providers (its most current survey of the space), Texas has the highest overall satisfaction with retail electric providers out of any state. And because rates, plans, and offers can be so similar from provider to provider, customer satisfaction scores are a great way to break a tie. Think of it like choosing who to hire when you have two candidates with similar resumes — you’re going to pick the person with the glowing references.
Prices are expected to go up so quickly that Direct Energy has stopped selling its "Power-to-Go" plan to new customers this summer, a prepaid plan that changes rates each month depending on wholesale prices. Instead, the company is encouraging its customers to lock in for longer periods of time. Customers who used up to 2,000 kilowatts each month could get a 12-month contract for 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour in May compared to the same plan for 9.1 cents per kilowatt hour one year earlier.
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.
Make sure that you select your home size so that you are looking at the plan rates that apply to a home of your size. This is very important. If you live in an apartment, you do not want to be looking at the 2000 kWh rates. If you enroll in a plan based on a cheap electricity rate at the 2000 kWh level you will probably end up paying a much different rate when you use considerably less electricity than that.
With more than a decade in business as a quality electricity provider based in Houston, Spark Energy works to consistently deliver reliable, low-cost electricity, community support and a better customer experience to hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers across sixteen states. Why do we do it? Because we are committed to being the best electricity supplier in the country. In Houston, that means:
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.
Houston has a wide range of electricity companies available with a variety of energy plans and rates designed to fit your budget. Because of all the available options, it becomes more important to educate yourself and choose a plan that meets your needs. One important factor that most of our customers consider is the Rate Type they sign up for: fixed energy rates or variable energy rates.
One of the newest and most exciting things we’ve introduced into the market is a strategic partnership with Amazon, allowing us to offer customers in Texas new fixed-rate electricity plans that include an Amazon Echo Dot. Our Power on Command and Weekends on Command plans offer protection from seasonal price fluctuations, plus an Echo Dot to manage all your smart home needs. Our Alexa Skill adds even more convenience, giving you the power to access and manage your Direct Energy account using voice commands.
To skirt the late summer electricity rate hikes, a little bit of planning can really pay off. Try to avoid signing new long-term electricity contracts in late summer. While it may be impossible to escape signing a new electricity contract if you’re moving during that time, just know that a short-term plan may make more sense until the rates go back down in the fall. That way you’re not stuck paying a premium rate for an entire year or more.
Houston is becoming much greener, and all signs indicate that the city will continue to be a leader in the renewable energy sector. Green energy in Houston is widely available for consumers. Choose Energy has partnered with Amigo Energy and Green Mountain Energy, two trusted green energy suppliers in Houston. The city's energy efficiency rank typically falls within the top ten, and no other municipality buys more renewable energy. Recently, Causes.com rated the city the 10th greenest in the nation.
Ultimately, analysts said, this means that the vast majority of customers are not reaping the benefits of electricity deregulation, which promised that more competition would mean healthy savings. One analyst estimates that consumers are leaving about $2 billion a year on the table, which is likely flowing to the bottom lines of retail electricity companies.
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.
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.
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.
Electric companies buy longer-term contracts so they can hedge their risks when they’re selling long-term electricity plans. Just a week ago, it looked as if wholesale prices would be as high as Texas has seen in the past 15 years, said Ned Ross, director of governmental affairs for Direct Energy, the third biggest seller of electricity in Texas, behind No. 1 NRG and No. 2 TXU. Future prices have retreated recently, but companies buying power for August are still paying at least double what they paid a year ago, according to data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which oversees the state’s power markets.
Texas electricity deregulation has given millions of Houston residents and businesses the power to choose the cheapest electricity rate. According to ERCOT, over 92% of Texas homes and businesses who live in deregulated areas have switched electric companies since deregulation began in 2002. Even though electric choice in Texas has been hugely successful for energy savings, customers are still confused by the options, terminology, and overall process of switching electric providers.
If you’re thinking about looking for a better electricity plan for you, shop and compare retail electricity providers in your area. Our pick is Direct Energy. With plans like Free Weekends and Direct-Your-Plan, an electricity plan tailor-made to your lifestyle, you can find the perfect option for you. Direct Energy customers also benefit from rewards programs like Refer-A-Friend, energy saving insights from Direct Your Energy and access to home services and home protection plans.
Partha Krishnamurthy, a marketing professor at the University of Houston, said he suspects that many people may be unaware they’re paying more than they need to for electricity, putting their bills on autopay and forgetting about the rates they pay. Most people don’t go to the trouble of changing banks, jobs or their electricity providers, for that matter, unless there are problems.
Likewise, if you opt for a plan like our StarTex Power example, but in some months only hit 990 kWh of energy use, the $35 discount for cresting $1,000 kWh won't apply — and your bill is going to show it. Picking the right plan for you requires two things: an intimate knowledge of your home’s typical energy use, and a critical eye on any plan’s fine print.
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.