To do so, we used five of the state’s largest electricity companies to explore six things you'll have to evaluate when you're comparing plans and providers: We’ll walk you through customer satisfaction scores, running the numbers on rates, and calculating the impact of different fees, discounts, and contract types. We'll weigh in on extra perks, like points, and green energy too.
Power to Choose is a program run by the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Its goal is to protect residents of the state from unfair energy costs and unregulated REPs, as well as develop a strong infrastructure. The program provides an easy to use, online tool that give residents of the state the opportunity to compare rates, plans and other energy options.  Keep in mind though, you really need to read the fine print if you decide to use Power to Choose (or any other service, for that matter).
Before you switch providers, you’ll need to determine whether you’re under a contract with your current provider, and if so, how long you have left on your contract. You can usually find this information by looking at your electricity bill or by calling your energy provider. If you choose to switch before your contract is up, your current contract may outline an early termination fee. However, according to the Public Utility Commission of Texas, customers can switch providers without paying an early termination fee if they schedule the switch no earlier than 14 days before their current plan expires. When you change providers, you’ll be able to indicate the date you want the switch to occur.
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.
Since 2002, the majority of Texans have had to choose their own Retail Electric Provider (REP) – the middleman that buys electricity wholesale, then sells it to you, the consumer. According to the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ 2017 report, the Lone Star state is “the national leader in competitive residential, commercial, and industrial offerings,” which means there are well over 200 providers bidding for your attention.
As a renter, you’re likely concerned about getting your electricity contract’s start and end dates to match your lease term as close as possible. In most cases, your electricity provider will offer flexible start dates and some even offer same-day connections. If you can’t line up your electricity contract exactly with your lease term, it’s okay. It’s better to choose an electricity plan with a slightly longer contract term than your apartment lease if necessary. If you move and provide proof of a change in address, your electricity provider cannot charge you an early termination fee.
Some good news: According to J.D. Power’s 2016 survey on retail electric providers (its most current survey of the space), Texas has the highest overall satisfaction with retail electric providers out of any state. And because rates, plans, and offers can be so similar from provider to provider, customer satisfaction scores are a great way to break a tie. Think of it like choosing who to hire when you have two candidates with similar resumes — you’re going to pick the person with the glowing references.
Utility companies are responsible for transmission and delivery of electricity even in energy deregulated parts of Texas and should be contacted in the event of a power outage. Your retail energy supplier may provide you competitive electric rates or exceptional customer service, but they cannot repair power lines or restore your service. In the case of an emergency, contact:
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