“Retail electricity providers” began offering the sale of electricity supply shortly after deregulation began. Texans are not required to switch to a retail electricity provider, and will continue to receive the supply of electricity from their default utility until they decide to switch. Utilities have no incentive to supply electricity since they are required by law to resell electric supply at no profit. The utilities can only profit from the transmission and delivery of the electricity – which is not affected by which company sells the supply of electricity. Since the utilities often charge higher rates than electricity providers, there is little reason to stay with the utility for electric supply.
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.
One of the benchmarks of a successful free market is the range of choice provided to customers. Choice can be viewed both in terms of the number of firms active in the market as well as the variety of products those firms offer to consumers. In the first decade of retail electric deregulation in Texas, the market experienced dramatic changes in both metrics. In 2002, residential customers in the Dallas-Fort area could choose between 10 retail electric providers offers a total of 11 price plans. By the end of 2012, there were 45 retail electric providers offering 258 different price plans to residential customers in that market. Similar increases in the number of retail electric providers and available plans have been realized in other deregulated electricity market areas with the state.
Likewise, if you opt for a plan like our StarTex Power example, but in some months only hit 990 kWh of energy use, the $35 discount for cresting $1,000 kWh won't apply — and your bill is going to show it. Picking the right plan for you requires two things: an intimate knowledge of your home’s typical energy use, and a critical eye on any plan’s fine print.
You may have noticed a lot of electric companies offering a ton of plans and services. But not all light companies in Texas are created equal. So which one is right for you? At Amigo Energy, we want you to trust that you’re getting a custom energy plan at a good price—not just a quick fix that’ll cost you more down the road. In fact, JD Power gave us four out of five stars for pricing, beating out a ton of other large retail electricity providers.4
Texas Electricity Rating advocates for consumers and evaluates providers in the Texas electricity market for features and characteristics that typical energy customers may miss, such as high deposits, variable rates, incentives, "free" plans, and minimum usage plans. Our mission is to help consumers find the best electricity providers to fit their individual needs, as well as educate customers about potential marketplace pitfalls.
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.
In Texas, the average household uses an average of 77 million Btu of electricity per year, which is approximately 14% less than the national average. Breaking these stats down even further shows us that electricity use in the average Texan home is 26% higher than the rest of the United States, however this isn’t much higher than several other states that are closest to Texas. When it comes to cost, the average total household bill per year is $1,801. This amount ranks amongst the highest across America, but other states that typically see soaring temperatures in the summer season aren’t far behind.
Electricity rates in Texas are not fixed. Your rate can vary greatly depending on your usage and your electric plan. Some plans have relatively flat rates, while others can be all over the place. This means that you could end up paying 7¢ for 999 kWhs and 8.5¢ for 1001 kWhs. That would be a 16% increase because you microwaved a few potatoes. Learn more on the different plan types here.
In this free market competing electricity retailers buy electricity wholesale from private power generators to sell at retail to around 85% of Texas residents. The partnership between generators and retailers is governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which attempts to balance the power grid’s electricity supply and demand by purchasing small amounts of electricity at 15-minute intervals throughout the day.