There are many different options for term lengths in the Texas energy market. Different term lengths often have different price points, so if you’re more flexible with the length of your contract, you could get a cheaper rate. Contracts with shorter term lengths are great if you prefer to avoid a long-term commitment while longer contracts usually provide the benefit of longer-term price stability.
Electricity deregulation in Texas began in 2002 with the Texas Senate Bill 7, which mandated that deregulation be phased into the state over the next several years. Except for the Cities of Austin and San Antonio, the entire state of Texas is now deregulated – meaning that electricity customers can shop around for the supply side of their electricity charges.
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’sFree Weekends plan, which provides free electricity on weekends from 6 p.m. on Friday to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.
Month-to-month electric plans are more commonly known as variable rate plans. With these plans the amount you pay per kilowatt-hour for your electricity each month will vary. This price is based on fluctuations in the market, so when the price of electricity falls you’ll pay less, but when it rises, you’ll pay more. In other words, you’re really gambling and should realize ahead of time that what you pay for your electric will change every month. This is why month-to-month electricity plans are only best for people who need electricity for a short amount of time.
For example, shoppers for Texas electricity plans in the 77494 ZIP code in Katy, TX, could find 12-month plans for 6.8 cents/kWh in February; by June, electricity rates had increased 27 percent to 9.3 cents/kWh. As of early September, 12-month plans were up again, to 9.9 cents/kWh – a 6.5 percent hike from June and a 46 percent increase just since February.
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.