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?”
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 for all the information you need to make the right choice for you.