After spending so much time and energy with energy companies, I figure I should pass this info onto the internet world (within Houston). I am a Centerpoint Energy resident (you don't get to choose the electricity provider you have; it's based on where the electricity is provided). I think Houston is predominantly a Centerpoint energy area (correct me if I'm wrong).
Patrick Mays, an engineer for an oil and gas company in Houston, recently went shopping for a new electricity plan and found that the best deal available would cost about 55 percent more than what he’s paying, boosting his average rate to 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour from 6.1 cents under his expiring 12-month contract. The power bills for his 2,000-square foot home will climb an average of $30 a month over the year, he said, but he will take the brunt of the rate increase during the hot summer when he estimates his monthly bill will top out at $186, nearly double the $95 he paid last year.
The cheapest rates are going to have shorter contract terms. For instance, a 3 month term is cheaper than a 6 month term and a 6 month term is cheaper than a 12-14 month term. So if you are able to remember to call before your contract expires (they will notify via mail you that your contract is about to expire), then the 3 or 6-month term is your best bet. If you don't call to renew/cancel, you will be charged a much higher variable rate on a month-to-month basis. If this is you, sign for a 12-month contract term with the cheapest rate.
Even though customers in deregulated Texas markets routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated and regulated market has shrunk to 8.8 percent. In 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
Electric bills for customers in the Houston area can more than double in summer months, mainly because air conditioning. Not coincidentally, electric rates also rise in the summer months because of this increase in demand. The most dramatic rate increases occur in month-to-month plans, but electric rates do increase across the board for all fixed-rate contract lengths.
Since 2002, Amigo Energy has been one of the best electric companies in Texas. Not only that, but more recently we’ve received far fewer Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC) complaints than most other large residential electricity providers across the state.2 In fact, our customer service gets even better over the phone because our call-in customers have yet to file a PUC complaint this year.3 This ain’t our first rodeo—with over 15 years of experience and a track record of reliable service, you can trust Amigo Energy as your retail electricity provider.
Prepaid electricity plans are yet another option available to Texas customers. Prepaid plans let you avoid credit checks and deposits by pre-paying for your electricity. Prepaid electricity plans typically do not have a fixed duration and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. Shopping for prepaid electricity can often yield relatively cheap electricity with no deposit. See Prepaid Electricity: Is It Right For Me? for more.
Energy sellers must provide collateral to ERCOT to cover expected future costs of buying wholesale electricity and if the companies don’t have enough capital, they get shut down. Breeze Energy, a Dallas-based electricity retailer that sold wind-energy plans to 9,800 customers including many in the Houston area, got caught in that financial squeeze when it defaulted on its collateral obligations.
Here are my 2 cents about electric companies when shopping around for the best rates. Currently, the average cents/kWh in Houston is 10 cents, after speaking to a very helpful, very informative Green Mountain Energy representative. Although their rates are a little higher than my current rates, they have FANTASTIC customer service (which is almost worth it). The GME rep even recommended that I stick with what I am using now since it's cheaper.
YP - The Real Yellow PagesSM - helps you find the right local businesses to meet your specific needs. Search results are sorted by a combination of factors to give you a set of choices in response to your search criteria. These factors are similar to those you might use to determine which business to select from a local Yellow Pages directory, including proximity to where you are searching, expertise in the specific services or products you need, and comprehensive business information to help evaluate a business's suitability for you. “Preferred” listings, or those with featured website buttons, indicate YP advertisers who directly provide information about their businesses to help consumers make more informed buying decisions. YP advertisers receive higher placement in the default ordering of search results and may appear in sponsored listings on the top, side, or bottom of the search results page.
On the one hand, long-term, fixed-rate (contract) plans offer stability in pricing. If energy supply costs suddenly go up in your area, you won’t be left paying more than what you bargained for. You’ll have peace-of-mind. If you want to switch out of your contract before it ends with a lower cost plan, you’ll likely face a cancellation fee (early termination fee).