If you live in the greater Houston area, there are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business. Many of these providers have websites that are confusing and difficult to navigate, their rates buried in misleading advertising and dense jargon. Who has the time to sort through and keep track of options across all these different sites?
The Electricity Facts Label (EFL) is the industry standard document that contains all the fine print about an electricity plan. In it you will find all of the components that make up the electricity rate that is advertised for that plan. You will find the rate you should expect to pay at 3 standard levels of monthly usage in Houston: 500kWh, 1000 kWh, and 2000 kWh hours.
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As the largest city in Texas, Houston has a lot to offer – great shopping, out-of-this-world attractions, theaters, museums, a world-class culinary scene and more. At TXU Energy, we love being part of this diverse and exciting city. We’ve been providing Houston electricity for years – offering straightforward pricing and great plans designed to fit your household’s needs. It’s what’s made us the #1 choice for Texas electricity service.
For example, if you use a small amount of energy each month, you expect to be rewarded — right? Unfortunately, nearly all electricity plans from Texas REPs are advertised as costing more per kWh the less electricity you use. It’s a little like buying in bulk: Providers often discount your bill when you cross certain kWh thresholds. For instance, one 12-month plan from StarTex Power quotes 8.1 cents per kWh for 1,000 kWh a month and 8.8 cents for 2,000 kWh per month, but 12.1 cents for 500 kWh per month. Why the difference? Customers get $35 back each month if they pass 1,000 kWh of use, and another $15 back per month if they cross 2,000 kWh. In this case, using half as much electricity as your neighbor on the same plan wouldn’t get you half the bill.
Prices on longer term plans of a year or more have also risen significantly. Retail electricity providers are reluctant to discuss their prices — especially rising ones — but the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, a trade group, estimated that the rate on a one-year fixed price offer on the Power to Choose website has climbed more than 20 percent over the past year to an average of 11.1 cents per kilowatt hour.
Since the electricity market opened, more and more electricity providers have entered the market with various plans and products. Direct Energy and their affiliated brands: Bounce Energy , First Choice Power, and CPL Retail Energy offer a multitude of electricity plans and benefits so customers can find the electricity plan that best fits their needs. While it’s great to have so many options, it can be difficult and confusing to choose an electricity plan. With choices like fixed-rate, variable-rate, and prepaid plans, as well as varying price options, term lengths and rewards, shopping for an electricity plan can be an overwhelming task.
In the Houston area, only 16 percent of CenterPoint Energy’s 2.4 million residential customers — or about one in six — switched their electricity providers over the past year, according to the state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Among the 3.5 million customers of the state’s largest electric distribution utility, Oncor of Dallas, just 13 percent — only one in eight — signed up with a new retail power company in the last 12 months.
Sometimes you will see surprises in the EFL that could have a hug impact on the electricity rate you actually pay. For example, there may be a bill credit that kicks in once your usage hits 2000 kWh in a month. This has the effect of driving down the average electricity rate you would pay at 2000 kWh. But if at the end of the month, you used only 1999 kWh your electricity bill could actually be much higher.
Knowing how much electricity you use each month is important to finding the cheapest electricity plan. For Houstonians, usage is typically the lowest in the winter and highest in the summer. Your specific usage levels can be determined by simply looking back at previous electric bills and finding the kWh used. To avoid electric bill surprises during the peak summer months, you’ll need to accurately know your peak electricity usage which typically occurs in August.
Fixed-Rate Plans: These plans are steady and predictable; the price per kWh you sign up for will remain that same for the entirety of your contract. (The only changes in your bill will be from forces outside of your REP's control, like changes in TDU fees, or changes in federal, state, or local laws.) Often fixed-rate plans will have a slightly higher price per kWh than others, but you're paying for the predictability. They're great if you live by your budget – and even greater if you happen to sign up when rates are low. The fixed-rate plans of our five Texas providers typically started at 12 months, with some extending up to three years, but we spotted a couple from Reliant that offered fixed rates for six month contracts as well.
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.