Free electricity is a phrase you’ll hear a lot about when you’re shopping for a new energy plan. Unfortunately, these plans only offer free electricity on weekends or at night, depending on what energy companies are advertising. This is because there really is no such thing as completely free electricity. In fact, you’ll pay more for your electricity during those hours that aren’t free. For this reason, these plans are best for families who aren’t home during the day and people who work traditional, 9 – 5 jobs.
Consider your electricity usage behavior and choose the best electricity rate accordingly. For a single adult that works a 9-5 job it makes sense to opt for an electricity company that offers a plan with free nights or has a low maximum usage restriction. In the other hand, a free weekends electricity plan or higher minimum usage restriction may be more appropriate for a family with kids.
Fixed-rate supply plans offer price-protected supply rates for the length of a term agreement. The price per kilowatt hour (kWh) will remain the same throughout your term, even if the market price fluctuates. A fixed-rate supply plan can range from three months to five years, so it’s important to find the term length that works best for your situation.
One desired effect of the competition is lower electricity rates. In the first few years after the deregulation in 2002, the residential rate for electricity increased seven times, with the price to beat at around 15 cents per kilowatt hour (as of July 26, 2006, www.powertochoose.org) in 2006. However, while prices to customers increased 43% from 2002 to 2004, the costs of inputs rose faster, by 63%, showing that not all increases have been borne by consumers. (See Competition and entry of new firms above for discussion on the relationship between retail prices, inputs, and investment.)
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.