Variable-rate supply plans, as the name suggests, have a rate that varies based on the market price of electricity. Seasonal and market fluctuations can affect supply rates. While variable-rate supply plans can allow you to take advantage of market-price lows, there is the possibility of paying for high supply rates when demand is at its peak. These plans offer great flexibility.
The Texas Senate Bill 7, passed in 2002, gave 5.6 million Texans the power to choose a retail electric provider (REP) to supply electricity to their home or business. This bill facilitated a competitive energy marketplace that 85 percent of Texans can capitalize on today. Energy choice is available to residents in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth as well as other cities in Texas.
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.
The local electric company is the utility – that’s the company who owns the infrastructure, including the poles and power lines that deliver electricity to your home. They are who you call if your power goes out or there's an emergency. But in almost every city in Texas, you must choose another company to supply that energy, called a Retail Electric Provider (REP). These REPs, like Spark Energy, allow you to choose electricity plans that offer competitive prices and plans to meet your needs.
The price difference may be a few cents, but another Texas electricity company might offer better rewards, have better customer service, or may offer other plans you may be interested in the future. Some plans may draw you in with a low promotional rate, but once that promotional period is up you may be faced with a high rate. Be sure to read all the fine print when it comes to your electricity plan selection.
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.
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.