Power To Choose: Why Texas’ PowertoChoose.org isn’t your best bet

Searching for the best electric rate in Texas?  Here’s Why Power to Choose could end up costing you more than just time.

THEY’LL LET ANYONE INTO THIS PLACE, I SEE

Powertochoose.org: The State of Texas’ Public Utility Commission has created this website that lists nearly every electric plan available in Texas.  When we last checked, we found over 260 plans from 64 different providers.  While at first this may sound like a good place to search for your electric plan, the lack of provider screening and the single-purpose nature of this website may actually land you with a plan you wish you’d never signed up for.

As a State-run website, their service is open to every single energy provider registered to compete in the deregulated Texas electricity marketplace.   Who are all these companies, you might ask?  Who knows!  They could have started business a month ago.  PowerToChoose lists an Energy Score Card – but all that relates to is the number of complaints “per capita” – the number of formal PUC complaints filed per active customer.

Powertochoose allows every registered REP (Retail Electric Provider) to list their plans on the website… even the companies who have just started in business and may be very likely to fail.  And while you usually get notice and can find an alternate supplier, you could be left with a ridiculously high-priced plan from the local Provider of Last Resort (POLR) if your provider does actually go belly-up.

(Insert fact about how much turnover the industry has seen,and quote a source).

And how many of these random companies are going to have the infrastructure in place to handle a huge influx of customers?  In fact, both OnPac energy actually decided to pull their plans down from powertochoose because they could not handle the giant rush of customers signing up for the plans they listed on powertochoose.

Because there is no screening of the providers offered on the PUC website, they leave you on your own for ensuring you sign up with a company that’s likely to stay in business and has the infrastructure in place to provide excellent customer service.

Look for providers your friends may be using or those you’ve heard good things about.  They’ve probably been around for a while.  They probably know what it takes to survive in a very competitive market:  Great customer service, competitive pricing, and legitimate business practices.

THE ALMIGHTY FACTS LABEL

The most powerful documents available to you when shopping for electricity in the Texas are the Electricity Facts Label and the Terms of Service.   These two documents contain valuable information about the plan you are considering, and every energy provider must disclose the information in these documents in a similar format.

The problem with powertochoose.org is in how these documents are accessed.  Every time you want to see a facts label or the terms of service on that site, you’ll have to navigate to another webpage.   This means the document loads in a new tab or in a new browser window.  If that’s not annoying, I don’t what is.  And if keeping track of numerous open windows isn’t enough, having to go back and forth between them while shopping is tough.  How can you keep track of which plan you were viewing when you have 8 different windows open, all related to different plans?

GETTING BACK TO CONSUMER FOCUSED SERVICE

There is no choice history, nothing personalized for you, nothing beyond a price list.

So let’s say you successfully sift through 250+ plans from 64+ companies, all fighting for that top position on pricing.  You find a provider that suits your needs and you sign up.  Now what?  You’re on your own.  The State site is done with you.

You’re linked off and there is no record of what you chose, how much you paid, or evidence of the plans agreements that were posted at the time of your signup.  You get to start all over at the provider website by entering your zip code yet again, navigating another confusing pricing structure, and try to find that same plan you signed up for.

This would be like shopping on expedia.com, finding your flight, choosing to buy it, and then having to start the entire process all over again at the airline site, hoping that your flight is still there, and that the pricing is still the same.

No screening of companies, and a complaint report card that is biased

How often do you call up the government to tell them about your great experiences?   The PUC site simply displays a complaint ratio of total customers to number of complaints.  Where are the actual details of the complaints?  How about those with positive experiences?  They’re nowhere to be found.

You’re probably interested in what others have to say – both good and bad, not just a generic “star” rating without any details, right?   It’s important to research these numerous power companies from multiple angles.  Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, Verified customer reviews… all of these can help you better assess what you’re signing up for.

OVERCOMING THESE PITFALLS  IS A CLICK AWAY

Fortunately there is a much better option for quickly comparing the numerous electric providers and plans without the potential headache offered up at the PUC website.  ComparePower offers a unique experience that will help make your life as a deregulated energy consumer much easier and straightforward.

  • Pre-screened providers and rate plans
  • Find the very best providers and their very best plans.  You won’t have to wade through advertising gimmicks and make 27 phone calls to discover your cheapest electric rate from a reputable provider.
  • Facts Labels and Terms of Service are embedded.  When you want to review one of these important documents, you will see it right there next to the plan you are reviewing.  No new windows.  No Popups.  Simple and easy.
  • You-centric.  Keep track of your choices over time and store these important plan documents in your account, safe and sound.  Keep track of your usage history if you’d like, which will help you find the lowest electric rate for your average usage level when it’s time to signup again in the future.
  • Review company information of the electric providers and read real consumer reviews.  Access summaries of social and community feedback on the various energy companies all in one place without hunting around on the Internet.

They key to getting the very best electric rate for your unique situation is educating yourself on the different facets of the deregulated energy industry.  Whether we like it or not, this industry is a bit confusing, and it’s not getting any simpler.  Educate yourself on how all this stuff works and use ComparePower’s consumer-centric comparison service to find a reputable, trusted supplier at the best possible rate.

Finding your cheapest electric rate, explained!

ComparePower works to save you money on your electric bills.

Looking to find your lowest possible electricity rate? This video shows you how to do it in record time with the help of ComparePower, a free service for consumers of electricity in areas where they have a choice in who provides their energy.

You’re aren’t paying more for electricity than your neighbor is, are you? Look, you probably know that comparing electric providers and signing up for a new rate plan can save you a lot of money. But with all the tricky ads, teaser rates, and confusing terms out there, it’s hard to figure out which plan gives you the biggest bang for your buck. Imagine taking the competing electric companies, with their fancy ads, complicated terms, and confusing pricing, and boiling their plans down into the things that really matter to you…the consumer… the one paying for this stuff. That’s what ComparePower helps you do. We provide a free resource for quickly finding your best electric rate without any of the headache. You can easily spend hours, even days, researching and comparing various electric providers when searching for your perfect plan, reading through the fine print and decoding all the details. With ComparePower, this process takes less than 10 minutes. We’ve already done the homework so you don’t have to make all the phone calls, wade through the gimmicks, and read countless documents searching for hidden fees. We carefully evaluate the electric companies and find those with the best rates, terms, and customer feedback, and we put their all-inclusive pricing into a simple format that’s easy to understand. This information is updated live on our website, 24 hours a day. And after you’ve signed up, ComparePower keeps working. We constantly look out for changing rates, and we’ll alert you when it’s time to come back for a better deal. Enter your zip code, compare your choices, and quickly land on your perfect plan. Three steps and you’re done.  Back to your day…confident that you aren’t overpaying. Enter your zip code below to compare today’s live pricing from the different competing electric companies:

Looking for your Best Sharyland Electricity Rate?|Instantly compare providers and pricing

Deregulation is a Game Changer.  Do you really want to gamble with the price you’ll pay for your electricity?

Getting Cheap Sharyland electricity through deregulation shouldn't be a gamble

Are you rolling the dice when it comes to getting a Cheap Electric Rate in the newly deregulated Sharyland Service area?

Some Sharyland electricity service areas (specifically Brady, Celeste, Colorado City, and Stanton service areas) have been deregulated and that’s left you with a lot of questions…

“Do I have to go with a retail provider?”

“How can I find the cheapest electricity rates in my area?”

Deregulation does involve a learning curve.  It means you will need to be more proactive and involved in your billing management because it’s not just the one company any more.

As the saying goes, “When there’s only one dealer, it’s house rules.”  That meant you got the bill, you paid the bill, and that’s all there was to it.  A regulated industry meant Sharyland Utilities did the controlling.  You had no say in anything, much less over how much you paid.

Deregulating certain Sharyland electricity service areas means a huge amount of upheaval at the beginning while everybody gets themselves sorted out but, ultimately, Sharyland electricity providers that provide a superior service at an excellent rate will rise while those who don’t,  won’t.

It also means that you have more power as a customer to choose:

  • a company based on how much green energy they use
  • a company that does not import power from outside the state or the company
  • a fixed-rate plan that sets the rate for a period of time regardless how the industry is performing as a whole.
  • a short-term or month-to-month plan so you’re not locked in

In the end, Sharyland electricity will be available to all residents of the deregulated Sharyland electricity service area at a rate they can afford.

Here’s where you gamble with Sharyland electricity rates

Las Vegas, Nevada, is famous for its electricity: the energy, the excitement, the entertainment, and naturally the gambling.  When you go to Vegas, you bring along a budget specifically for gambling, ideally money you can afford to lose, and you go rarely, as a special trip.

Home in Texas, “electricity” is something else entirely: it’s your favorite TV show, a home-cooked meal, and a cool home on a hot day.  Are you really okay gambling with your household budget each and every month?   Now that you live in a Sharyland electricity service area that has been deregulated, you just might be doing that!

Up to now, you’ve been dealing with one company for all your power-generating and distribution needs. Under deregulation, Sharyland Utilities, while still around, is more in the back seat:

  • Problem with the electricity coming to your home?   Call Sharyland Utilities.
  • Problem with the bill?   Call your Retail Electric Provider (also called an “REP”).
  • Problem with the electricity inside your home?  Well, that’s when you call an electrician.

Under the rules of deregulation, staying with Sharyland Utilities isn’t an option.  If you fail to choose an REP, then one will be chosen for you. This is like you in a Las Vegas casino handing your cards over to the dealer for play. Maybe you’ll benefit… probably you won’t.

The available pool of default electric providers consists of seven candidates, ranging from Champion, who topped J D Power and Associates’ 2013 Customer Satisfaction poll for Texas energy providers (that’s the fourth year running!) down to TXU, currently down near the bottom and notorious for their high prices.

When you are assigned to a default REP, you’re put on a month-to-month plan, meaning that your rate will go up and down and you won’t actually know how much you’re being charged per kilowatt-hour until you open the bill.  You won’t know if there is a charge for not having autopay on your account, for using telephone customer service, for paying by credit or debit card, all kinds of fun things could show up on the bill  – “Ladies and gentlemen, faites vos jours!”

So, how do you find the cheapest electricity rates in the Sharyland electricity service area?

But how would you even go about finding the cheapest electricity rates in Brady, Celeste, Colorado City, Stanton, Mission, McAllen, etc?

  • You could get the list of default REPs.
  • You could take time out of your day to call each and every one
  • You could put up with high-pressure sales tactics, customer services agents still fresh on the job, and misleading information
  • You could hope that you’ve covered all the information you need to know
  • You could hope you’re making the right choice.

On the other hand, you could enter your zip code, make a couple of quick clicks, and immediately see the REPs that are available in your area and that will suit your needs.

You’ll have access to the Terms of Service and the Facts Label.  Read them carefully and you’ll have all the information you need to know.  Better yet, you’ll see clearly where you need to question them more closely (hint:  look for phrases like “other fees or charges may apply”).  The cheapest electricity rates in the Sharyland electricity service area will be a lot quicker to find if you know how to avoid wasting time calling those who simply will not suit.

Don’t let someone else make your play for you. Enter your zip code to get the pricing and plan details you need for a winning strategy.

 

Why did electricity rates zig when they should’ve zagged???

If there’s one thing that deregulation has taught us, it’s that while the market does result in price competition, the end result may not exactly come out in the wash. When prices are legally controlled, the cost of the product is dictated by the supplier or manufacturer within a range set by the regulating body and it’s usually geared to the “average” cost of production. Deregulation, such as what happened with Texas electricity rates, means that the price is determined by market demand – Retail Electric Providers buy energy in blocks and resell it and, like any other industry, buying in bulk results in a lower per-unit price. That’s why buying a drill at “Bob’s Auto Supply and Dentistry” is going to cost you more than the same drill at Home Depot: Bob’s only buying two or three drills a month, while Home Depot is buying two or three hundred a week! With regulated power, the governing utility set limits on how much can be charged, whether or not it’s in line with the actual cost of cooking up the electricity and serving it to the customer.

electricity rates

The bubble of wishful thinking hits the needle point of Reality

In a perfect world, market competition is better for the customer than regulation because there is incentive for new players to jump into the water. This means the customer has the power to choose which of the Retail Electric Providers will suit his needs. Those who provide a superior product at a competitive price will profit and those that don’t, won’t. But clearly that isn’t always what happens: after deregulation in Texas, electricity rates for some did drop but overall, the prices went up faster when compared to regulated areas of the state. Why is that?

Part of the problem is that when prices are regulated, they are usually not in line with anything in the real world. Sure, we’d all like to pay 2c/kWh for our electricity but if it costs 5c/kWh to generate it, that’s pie-in-the-sky thinking. In a regulated market, the price is geared to the average cost of production – terrible news for solar thermal power generation (which costs the most) but very good news for natural gas and coal (which cost the least). So now the producer is handcuffed to the price they get which means either they cut back production or else it’s back to the government of Texas, electricity generation expenses in hand, doing the Oliver Twist (“P-p-please suh…. I want some more!”) just to stay in operation, never mind making any kind of profit. This is a real buzzkill for anyone thinking to start up a power generation business because “The whole point of starting a business is to lose money” said nobody, ever.

Corporate welfare: a self-fulfilling prophecy

Let’s say we have two cities in Texas, A and B. City A is regulated – they love their cheap power, they love having no Retail Electric Provider middlemen, and they’re comfortable with having just one utility as a go-to. They’re so comfortable with their electric rates that they’re not exactly conservative when it comes to using it (folks, this actually happens!). City B is deregulated – there’s more confusion and chaos, it’s a bubbling pot full of Retail Electric Providers all fighting to get to the surface and attract more customers yet their electric bills are not as low as City A’s even though City “Beople” are very responsible with their energy usage. City B customers are upset and annoyed: why do City A citizens pay less for more power when they don’t even have a free market? What they don’t realize is that part of the reason City A’s electric bills are so low is that, periodically, the state government has to top up the generator’s bank account – that means that everybody in the state, including the citizens of City B, is helping City A pay their power bills while City B people are self-sufficient and taking care of their own business while helping out City A!

When you look at it, which one really is the American way?

The smart thing to do is to keep on top of your electricity bill and shop, shop, shop! Visit ComparePower.com on a regular basis so when it’s time to renew your contract, you’ll have no doubt that you have the perfect plan to meet your needs at a price you can afford.

Texas Power – What’s to Understand?

In some ways, a centralized power industry is simple to deal with – they tell you how much you will pay and when your bill will arrive and you either say “okay” or you get yourself a couple of generators or a really complicated treadmill.  Unfortunately, that means you’re at the mercy of the electricity provider when it comes to rates – you don’t have the power to choose even the slightest aspect of your electricity supply.  If you think the rate is too high or you’d maybe like to see more renewable energy sources, well… sorry.  “Mastercard, Visa, or American Express?”

 ID-100224529.jpg

 

Now, deregulation is a fine thing when it comes to increased market competition, flexibility for the consumer, and giving the consumer the power to choose when it comes to how their power will be generated, but it also means that the Texas power landscape suddenly got a whole lot more complicated!

 Before, it was a soup-to-nuts arrangement where one company handled everything:  power generation, distribution, and retailing.  Now, it’s all fractionated.  In Texas, power generation is handled by “these” companies; distribution (the wire, lines, and whatnot) is managed by “those” companies; and the Retail Electric Providers handle the reselling.

Instead of one major corporation handling Everything Electric, now you have to know whom to call and when:

 For account and billing related problems, you call your Retail Electric Provider – Bounce Energy and First Choice Power are examples of well-established Texas power retailers.

  • For power outages that are affecting the neighborhood, you call the utility/distributor – Reliant, Tara, Spark Energy are examples.  Unlike the resale end of things, you have no say in who’s handling the distribution – those areas are fixed, as you can see in this map put out by the Public Utility Commission.

  • For a power outage that affects your home only, you call an electrician.

Because of deregulation in Texas, power generation and sales has been completely shaken up from end to end.  It’s no longer a matter of paying “the rate”  – you might be on a longer-term flat rate contract or, most commonly, you might be on a plan where the rate varies periodically.  There are three general categories of electric plans:

Fixed-rate plans – exactly what it sounds like:  for the duration of your contract, you pay the same rate.  If rates go higher than yours, you save money.  If rates drop lower, you don’t.

  • Variable rate – a variable rate plan changes from month to month based on the cost of generating electricity. You won’t know what you’re paying until the end of the month.  This can lead to a nasty surprise or a pleasant one.  You won’t know until you open the envelope.  The formula used to calculate the rate is crazy-complicated but it will be posted somewhere on your REP’s website or in the documentation.

  • Indexed rate plans – this is a variable rate plan on steroids that is rarely available.  If someone is trying to sell you an indexed rate plan, be aware that the price is tied to a commodity – usually natural gas – so prices can really jump around insanely.

The best way to get into the plan that meets your needs  is to educate yourself.  Visit ComparePower.com for all the information you need to make the right choice for you.

*Illustration courtesy of jesadaphorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Customer Service: What’s really going on at the other end of the line?

Bad Customer Service

Behind the Scenes: Customer Service

I’ll admit it:  during a particularly rough spell in my life, I was forced into a lifestyle my parents would be mortified to discover.  It’s not something a girl likes to admit but … I did it.  It was tough, especially at the beginning.  Walking in my door in the wee hours of the morning, all I wanted was a hot shower to try and wash away the slimy feeling my job left under my skin and every day I woke up to a new shift, I felt another layer of morality burn away.  Yes, I was a telephone Customer Service Representative for a Retail Electric Provider.

Oh, you start with the best of intentions.  You really do believe the hype: “Provide excellent customer service”, “Leave the customer smiling”, “Customer satisfaction is priority one”, and so on.  You make sure your station is gleaming, you diligently sanitize everything at the end of each shift, and you carefully center your child’s school photo right where your eye will rest on it as you comfort, console, and assist your customers (and you truly believe they are “yours”). And then, the day your probation ends, your supervisor, who’d been glowing with compliments over your work, pulls you aside to discuss your call handle average, which really should be no more than three minutes from start to finish by now.

A month later, you couldn’t care less if the customer’s hair caught fire while talking to you and you’ve turned your child’s picture to face the wall so the guilt doesn’t kill you.  You’ve taken to using a “professional” name in case somebody you know calls in and recognizes you and when people ask you what you do for a living, you merely reply “Oh, I do telephone work” and give them a broad wink.  Somehow, it feels less dirty.

One of the things customers are always told is to demand to speak to a supervisor.  Let me tell you why that actually doesn’t work much of the time:  the floor supervisors, in the corporate scheme of things, are little more than glorified reps themselves.  In most cases, they don’t have any more authority than the newest agent in the cube farm and, in a rather astonishing number of cases, if you call back to speak to that supervisor, you’ll be informed by the switchboard that there’s no such person.

We did it all the time:  put the client on hold for a couple of minutes and relax.  Have some coffee, now gone cold.  Check the mani-pedi for chips, maybe use an emery board on a few rough edges.  Just relax.  Then, when you hear the agent next to you is off the line, you whisper “Hey!  Wanna be my supervisor?”  Back to the phone with “Thank you for holding, I have my supervisor on the line.  One moment while I transfer you”, put the phone on hold, pass your headset to the next door neighbor and go put your feet up until the customer has hung up on the “supervisor” in disgust.  That’s assuming you’re not acting as your neighbor’s supervisor!

If you truly want to speak to someone in charge, don’t bother trying to go in through the telephone rep.  Their sphere of influence is severely limited and the main priority is getting you off the line ASAP before you kill their average and possibly get them fired.  Instead, hang up and call the main switchboard and ask to speak with someone by name or position.  Remember:  you are the customer and you are entitled to be treated with competence, with dignity, and with respect.

Tired of footing your roommate’s share of the electricity bill?

ID-10049674.jpg

Photo by twobee from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just think: right this minute, somebody in a yurt somewhere is yelling at their roommate for burning the last yak butter candle and not replacing it.  Okay, maybe yak butter candles are not a problem in Texas but utility bills?  Whoa, Nelly!  Major cause of roommate discord!  There’s always someone who never seems to have money when it’s time to pony up their share, leaving the account holder to take the hit on their credit report.  Now, thanks to the deregulation of the Texas power industry, consumers have the option to choose from prepaid or postpaid electricity plans.

Yes, “prepaid” electricity, just how they’ve been doing it for decades in England!  You top up your account in advance and the electric company pulls from it according to your usage.  When your account runs low, you’re sent a warning by automated phone call, text, or email and you simply top it up again.  The beauty of prepaid electricity is that you can top it up as you get the funds so if your income is irregular or unpredictable, bump it up when you’re boom and relax when you’re bust.  Now, if cheap electricity is your number-one priority, perhaps prepaid plans aren’t ideal since they are often a higher rate than contract plans – but how much are you saving, really, once you’ve factored in the hassle and expense of a delinquent roomie?  Suddenly, your cheap electricity is looking mighty costly!

When you’re a landlord or living in a shared accommodation situation, the benefits of implementing prepaid electricity for your owned or rented property are immediately apparent: “No power payment?  No Xbox for you!”   Others who could benefit from prepaid electric plans are those with less-than-stellar credit or those just starting out on their own, such as teenagers in their first apartment or women coming out of a bad relationship.  The ones who really benefit are those like international students who lack citizenship, a credit history, a residency history, are typically in the age bracket of highest credit risk, and who frequently don’t have the funds to go locking up hundreds of dollars in an electricity deposit.

Here’s a quick summary of the pro and cons of choosing prepaid electricity:

Pros:

  • No deposit required

  • No credit check required

  • No contract buy-out fee

  • Daily usage monitoring – you’re not waiting until you get a shockingly high bill at the end of the month to discover your neighbor’s not only been riding on your Wifi but also stealing your electricity to run his hot tub.

  • Much more authority to enforce shared utility situations.

  • As a landlord or leaseholder, the electric bill is not your problem if the tenant does a midnight move.

  • Pay when you can

  • There’s usually a number of payment options, including smartphone, text, bank, in-house, telephone, and mail-in.

  • Quick reconnect in the event of an account-related outage (typically within an hour or two)

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud:

Cons:

  • The rates tend to be higher than post-paid accounts

  • If you use electricity more than you expected, you could be caught short.

  • You might get stuck with an inconvenient payment platform because the company, for example, only accepts in-branch payments (and they’re all the way across town!) or levies a fee for telephone credit card transactions.

  • Warnings could be pretty last-minute:  24 hours is no good if your paycheck isn’t until Friday!

  • The rate still fluctuates so while a sudden drop will give you more electricity than you expected, a sharp spike can leave you short.

  • Some prepaid plans use a month-to-month structure where anything left in the account is not carried over to the following month.

In a perfect world, we would have all the electricity we need on demand.  Until that happy time, head on over to ComparePower.com to learn all you need to know about the Retail Electric Providers in your area and how you can keep ultimate control of your electric bill in your own hands.

 

How to calculate the REAL cost of an electricity plan

ID-100242029.jpg

You wouldn’t blindly sign up for a cell phone plan or a car loan without knowing all the details, would you?  Yet, each and every day, people sign up with a cheap electricity company without fully understanding what it is to which they’ve agreed.  They see the glittering promise of cheap electricity and jump at it like magpies on a shiny pebble only to get hammered with the cold, wet fish of reality when the bill comes in.  ComparePower.com is an example of a website that provides you with excellent information – but you have to know what it is you’re looking at.  Why is Company A’s rate so much lower than Company B’s?

Here’s what you need to know, neat and sweet, about cheap electricity:  you’re not just paying for the kilowatt hours.   Your Retail Electric Provider will also have other fees and charges you’ll be expected to cover, one way or another.  Your bill might include any or all of the following charges:

  • delivery of your electricity
  • dropping below a minimum usage
  • using certain methods of payment
  • accessing telephone customer service
  • not having autopay set up
  • paper billing
  • using renewable energy sources

Now you know why, even though Company A’s rate is so much lower than Company B’s, it still might wind up costing you more.   This holds particularly true if Company B doesn’t charge for what would normally be just part of doing business, such as paying by credit card or requiring a customer service agent to sort out the mess you’ve created by trying to do it yourself online.  When a cheap electricity company advertises incredibly low rates, they’re making up the difference somewhere.  No company starts up business intending to lose money.

Other points to keep in mind:

  • Beware of the “vanishing discount” where the heavily-promoted rate turns out to be merely an “introductory offer” that disappears very quickly (even without notice) or else requires a certain usage level.  Make sure you find out when that discount disappears and make a note of it somewhere prominent.

  • Ask your friends and relatives if they mind you looking at their electric bill, especially if they say they’re with a cheap electricity company.  If their household and lifestyle are similar to yours, then your bill should be in the same ballpark.  If it is an itemized bill, it will have the per-kilowatt hour; the delivery charge (which might be a flat rate or a blended rate with a flat rate base plus a per-kWh charge); and any line items all neatly spelled out.  If it’s a bundled rate, you’ll just see the aggregate total for the regular monthly charges plus any exceptional line items (such as NSF fees and so on) listed which may or may not apply.

  • While researching on ComparePower.com, read both the facts label and the Terms of Service.  While reading the Terms of Service, if there is mention of a fee or charge but it’s not specifically spelled out, make sure to call and ask. Be honest with yourself about how such fees and charges might impact your bill – if you’re a chronic late payer, a late payment fee that’s double the competition’s is going to be something you want to factor in, as would a fee for payment by credit card if you put everything on plastic.

  • Watch out for contract terms – that sexy kilowatt rate might be trying to trap you into a commitment for which you’re not ready.  It’s no good signing up for cheap electricity on a multi-year contract if you know you’re going to be moving in a year and then it’ll cost you to break the contract, cost you to disconnect the service, then cost you again to reconnect at your new home.

  • If you are not technologically savvy and frequently need Customer Service assistance, a company that charges to speak to an agent could send your bill over the top very quickly.

Sometimes, the promise of cheap electricity is not the only factor when considering which electric plan to choose.  The good thing is that power to choose is yours!  For all the information and some really great tips, visit ComparePower.com today!

Finding the Best Electric Rates by Understanding Texas Power Plans

Prior to 2002, electricity plans in Texas fell into one of three categories: the electric company’s way, the way the electric company wanted it, and whatever the electric company said. After deregulation, Public Utility Commission of Texas decided that was too complicated a system, so now REPs have one of three ways they structure their plans, each of which has different contract terms as well as its own advantages and disadvantages.

Fixed Rate

The simplest plan is the Fixed Rate plan – this means that for the entire term of your contract, which is typically a minimum of three months but can go up to 24 months, your rate will not change. This is easy for you because there’s no real guesswork involved – you know what your rate is going to be when you wake up tomorrow and next week and next month right up until your contract term ends. Not so great if the rates drop and you end up paying more than everybody else, though, and of course you’re almost certain not to get the same rate if you re-up your contract. But you never know: you might luck into a lower rate.

Indexed rate

Then there’s the Indexed electric plan. This one can be on a monthly or term basis with a rate that’s calculated by a formula (which they will gladly share with you) with the base being the public index or some other publicly available information. Basically, if your rate is indexed to, say, the price of natural gas (which it often is), then it will go up and down in accordance with the cost of natural gas. The formulas the companies use to determine your rate are simplicity itself, such as this one from a major REP where the price of a kilowatt hour is:

[ Natural Gas Price ] x [ Seasonal Factor ]

+ Energy Charge

+ [ (Monthly charge + Monthly TDSP Meter Surcharge) ]  /  [Monthly bill kWh Use]

____

$$$ Price you pay $$$

As you can see, easily worked out in your head. Maybe. As you have no doubt also noticed, it’s that whole “dependant on the price of natural gas” thing that can sour you on the whole deal: during a recent heat wave, customers on Indexed plans saw their energy price double and even triple,  totally wiping out the great savings they’d enjoyed up to that point.

Variable rate

The third option is the Variable rate plan, the one that surprises you every month: did it go up? Did it go down? According to Schrödinger, only the act of observing can determine a fixed state so, technically, the rate is both higher and lower until you actually look at the bill and collapse the waveform. Isn’t that exciting? All kidding aside, even though the company generally isn’t obligated to notify you of any rate changes, historically the monthly variance has been nowhere near as wild as can happen with Indexed rate plans, so it can be a reasonable compromise between the locked-in stability of the Fixed Rate plan and the volatility of the Indexed plan.

Your power to choose

In Texas, power to choose is yours and it depends, ultimately, on you: your personality, your preferences, and your spending habits. If you’re a conservative type of person who likes to know exactly how much to budget each month, then the Fixed Rate is probably a better one for you. If you’re a devil-may-care, put-the-pedal-to-the-metal type, go ahead and fly with the Indexed plan. If you like a reasonable chance of savings with maybe not quite so much risk, then definitely you might like the Variable rate plan.

Just make sure to visit a site like Compare Power before you make your final selection – you can never go wrong with getting all the information you need for the best decision!

Power to Choose: What an Empowering Thought!

Turning on the news these days is downright depressing.  Large companies are buying each other up to form even larger companies while organizations form “networks” and “alliances” with mutual “understandings” until, in the end, “power to choose” is just an illusion.   Pick any one of them – turns out they’re all owned by the same corporation, so “freedom of choice” becomes meaningless.  Against this bleak landscape of monochrome sameness, however, comes the shining light of deregulation!  And, since it’s the power industry that’s been deregulated, “shining light” is extremely apt.  It’s even more difficult for those who are just starting out on their own after years of living with their parents or with a spouse who “took care of all that stuff” who is, for one reason or another, no longer able.

Having to set up the basic functions of a new home can be daunting for the newly-independent.

Michelle discovers she has the Power to Choose!

“We married fresh out of high school,” said Michelle (“Just call me Missy, everybody does”) F., a life-long resident of Houston.  “George was a good man.  I never had to work – he took pride in supporting his family and making sure I never had to worry about anything except looking after the house and the children.  Of course, we never expected the Alzheimer’s.  No one ever does, do they?”  She smiled sadly, twisting her wedding band around her finger.  It was worn thin from decades of wear.

“Oh,” she laughed shortly, “You should’ve seen me!  Such a state I was in the time I came home from visiting him in the hospital to find they’d cut the power!  I didn’t even know who to call!  I was sitting alone in the kitchen completely beside myself when my daughter-in-law came by because I hadn’t answered the phone.  Well, I couldn’t, could I?  With no electricity, the phone didn’t work.  She made all the arrangements and took me home with her until the electricity was restored.  I felt like such an incompetent fool when she asked me very basic questions such as who is my energy provider and I just kept saying I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!”

Her daughter-in-law took her over the energy bill and explained how it all worked.  Michelle determined that she needed to have the account transferred from her husband’s to her own name “…and what a song and dance that was!  I was perfectly fine keeping the same company because we’ve always been with them.  I had no clue that there are options I am perfectly free to choose and some of them would’ve saved us quite a lot of money at a time we really needed it.  I’m not sure that George even knew – he’s, well, he was very much the “If-it-ain’t-broke” type.  Another point we disagreed on was sustainability.  He was completely not interested in environmentally-friendly power generation, whereas I think that’s something today’s consumer wants to see addressed more.”

She’s right, too: these days, it’s not just how much you pay for your electricity, it’s how that electricity is generated.  More and more, we want energy production that doesn’t demo the planet we’re trying to live on.  As in any other area, information is vital.  It’s no good calling up your current REP and asking – they’ll do and say anything to keep you on their grid.  If it means keeping your bill on their letterhead, they will promise you pure, environmentally-friendly energy generated from moonbeams and baby kisses until they get your signature on the dotted line.

“My daughter-in-law told me about ComparePower.com and that’s given me all the information I need to keep on top of things.  Well, on top of my electricity bill, anyway!”

Exercising your Power to Choose involves a completely different form of “REP”

Like Michelle, you, too, can exercise your power to choose to the max by visiting ComparePower.com  (where “REP” has a completely different meaning!).  At ComparePower.com, you will be equipped to make the choice that’s right for you because the results you get are prescreened:  we remove companies with poor track records for customer service, industry compliance, etc.  The benefits don’t stop there, either!  Once you have signed on with an REP, you’ll want to exercise that power to choose regularly when each contract term is up because life changes and maybe the plan that was perfect a year ago isn’t really working for you today.

Unlike sit-ups, push-ups, and jogging, exercising your power to choose won’t make you break out into a sweat.  It’s as easy as clicking on  ComparePower.com :  just click, compare, and save!

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and used under Creative Commons license.