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.
CenterPoint Energy, a company that offers natural gas in six states and electricity to all of Houston, services the city and greater area. There are various choices for energy providers in Houston, and Choose Energy has partnered with some of the best. Customers have selections among trusted providers such as Reliant Energy, Direct Energy and TriEagle Energy.
Fixed-Rate plan: With a fixed-rate plan, you’ll lock in an electricity rate for the term of your contract. The most common term lengths are six ,12, and 24 months. Most fixed-rate plans charge customers an early termination fee if they switch providers before their contract expires, but your electricity rate will stay stable through the seasons. On the other hand, you may miss out on lower bills from a downturn in energy prices. If the price stability of a fixed-rate plan seems like the best option for you, lock in your electricity rate with Direct Energy’s Free Weekends plan, which provides free electricity on weekends from 6 p.m. on Friday to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.
The summers in Houston are hot and agonizing. In 1980 it was stated that this city alone was the most air-conditioned place on earth. It even stays mostly warm in the winters with an average low of 48 degrees in December and February. January is not much colder with an average low of 45 degrees. The average high in the middle of the intense Houston summers is 91 degrees although the temperature often reaches the high nineties or hundreds. The record high of 109°F alone displays the demand for cost-effective energy rates in Houston.
Variable Rate Plans: Designed as month-to-month contracts, these plans are in total control of your energy provider, which can shift the price you pay per kWh at its discretion. This means you, the consumer, are in a better place to reap the benefits when the energy market falls — but it also means you're at risk for hikes in prices, whether as a result of natural disasters or the provider's bottom line. Variable plans always offer a full year of price history to show the average price per kWh so you can get a sense of what you're getting into (like this one from Reliant) and know this: Variable plans don't have cancellation fees. You can cut your service at any time — a huge incentive for REPs to keep their prices reasonable.
Texas deregulation began in early 2002 with the approval of Texas Senate Bill Number 7. Now, the majority of the state, including Houston, has the power to select their own provider. Previously, consumers were only given one option for an energy supplier. Deregulation has allowed competition in the energy market and has given residents the power to choose which energy provider sells them energy and bills them each month.
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.
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.
As a result, power companies have shut down Texas coal plants unable to compete with lower-cost generators. Meanwhile, the low electricity prices of recent years — a function of cheap natural gas — and small profits have discouraged companies from investing in new power plants. ERCOT, which oversees about 90 percent of the state’s power grid, said power reserves that are called on when demand peaks on the hottest summer days have shrunk to the lowest levels since Texas deregulated power markets in 2002.
“The whole business model of the industry is to get people in on the promotional rates and then jack up their rate when the promotional rates end,” said Trent Crow, a former JP Morgan energy trader and founder of Real Simple Energy, a website that helps consumers find low-cost electricity plans. “I don’t think people realize how much they are overpaying.”