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.
That phenomenon has played out in Texas electricity markets, where few customers are willing to navigate the maze of power plans in the hope of shaving a few cents per kilowatt hour from their electric rates, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power which buys electricity on behalf of municipal governments in Texas. As result, customers in regulated markets such as San Antonio and Austin on average pay less for electricity than those in deregulated markets like Houston, according to the coalition.
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.
One way NRG has expanded its customer base — it has about 30 percent of the retail electricity market in Texas compared to about 20 percent a decade ago —is by putting employees into retail settings such as grocery stores and discount stores to meet with consumers about the company’s electricity plan offerings. The face-to-face interactions have helped the company explain the range of current offerings, said Killinger. NRG also emphasizes the importance of buying power from a company with enough financial heft that it will be around in the future.
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.
That’s what Josh Burdick thinks when looks around for electricity deals on Power to Choose for his 1,400 square foot West University condo. But Burdick, 45, an information technology project manager for an oil company in Houston, figured that he wouldn’t end up saving that much. He signed up with Reliant 11 years ago and has never left, paying anywhere from $120 to $150 a month during the summer. He is not even on a plan, instead paying month-to-month market rates, which typically cost more than longer term retail contracts.
*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.
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.
The Public Utility Commission (PUC) has a website to help you find and compare all the electricity plans and providers in your area. Visit www.powertochoose.org or call 866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839). You can filter your options based on your usage, your preferred plan type, and several other factors. Once you’ve chosen the retail electricity provider that best suits your needs, you can sign up directly from their website.
With a population of over 2.3 million people, Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the US by population. It was once the world’s most important hub for the oil industry. Energy is still a major industry in Houston and an important part of the local and state economies. Many of the state’s retail electricity providers are based out of Houston.
On the one hand, long-term, fixed-rate (contract) plans offer stability in pricing. If energy supply costs suddenly go up in your area, you won’t be left paying more than what you bargained for. You’ll have peace-of-mind. If you want to switch out of your contract before it ends with a lower cost plan, you’ll likely face a cancellation fee (early termination fee).