Like we said, fees don’t necessarily make for a bad plan — although it’s worth it to do the math to see if you can save with another provider. For example, compare TXU Energy’s Simple Rate 12 plan with its $9.95 base charge, alongside Direct Energy’s Live Brighter 12 plan with a smaller base charge, and Reliant’s Digital Discount plan with no base charge. We’ll use a Corpus Christi ZIP code and assume 1,000 kWh/month of energy use.
As they’re advertised, the Digital Discount plan appears to save you $4 — but only if you use 32 percent of your energy on the weekends, which is the stat Reliant used to create the average price it advertises. Say you often travel for business during the week, and are only home cranking the air conditioner on weekends. If your energy use skews to 55 percent weekend use (for Reliant, that means 8 pm on Friday through 12 am Monday), suddenly Truly Free Weekends becomes a much better deal.
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.
2of3Cattle roam on a mesa near Iraan, Texas on the site of the Desert Sky Wind Farm. According to website Desert Sky Wind Farm® is a 160.5-megawatt (160,500-kilowatt) wind power generation facility located near the far West Texas town of Iraan, in Pecos County. The site includes 107 turbines, each rated at 1.5 megawatts (1,500 kilowatts) spread over a 15-square-mile area on Indian Mesa.Photo: John Davenport, Staff / San Antonio Express-News
These rates are a better option for customers who own a home or have a long-term lease. These electric plans offer price protection and stability but usually require a longer commitment. The energy rates and prices will remain constant rather than fluctuating each month. The downside of this is that when energy prices drop, you will not benefit from the discounted energy. The positive, however, is that when energy prices spike, you will not be affected.
On the other hand, month-to-month variable rate (no-contract) plans don’t have cancellation fees. You won’t be penalized if you find a better deal elsewhere and want to make another switch. And, you won’t be stuck paying more than you should be if the market rate for electricity trends down. But, if it goes up, you’ll be paying more than your in-contract neighbors, and you’ll likely want to shop around again for a better deal.