Where should you shop for electricity? Houstonians have the power to choose from an overwhelming variety of energy suppliers, plans, and options. If you live in the Houston metro area and your local electric utility is CenterPoint, over 50 different retail electricity providers currently offer electricity plans in your area. Each of these electricity providers offer sites, tools, and information on how to switch plans and providers. However, their information is often filled with electricity rates that are difficult to compare because of things like introductory rates, bill credits, narrow usage levels, unexpected fees, and legalese buried in the EFLs. Fortunately, Houston homes and businesses have electricity shopping options that make the process much simpler.

One of the best electricity providers is Payless Power, a company that is based in Texas and serves residents across the state. They do not require deposits or credit cards and also don’t have long term-contracts, so everyone is approved. They let you setup text or email alerts so that you can keep an eye on your energy usage as well. You have options to pay online and in person, as Payless Power accepts cash payments at Moneygram locations all around the country(not just in Texas).


Electric companies buy longer-term contracts so they can hedge their risks when they’re selling long-term electricity plans. Just a week ago, it looked as if wholesale prices would be as high as Texas has seen in the past 15 years, said Ned Ross, director of governmental affairs for Direct Energy, the third biggest seller of electricity in Texas, behind No. 1 NRG and No. 2 TXU. Future prices have retreated recently, but companies buying power for August are still paying at least double what they paid a year ago, according to data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which oversees the state’s power markets.
The threat of price spikes have been long in the making, the result of changing economics of power production. The shale drilling boom produced record amounts of natural gas, which pushed prices to all-time lows and made gas-fired plants cheaper to operate than coal. Renewable energy such as wind is also producing abundant amounts of electricity at a lower cost than coal.

Prices are expected to go up so quickly that Direct Energy has stopped selling its "Power-to-Go" plan to new customers this summer, a prepaid plan that changes rates each month depending on wholesale prices. Instead, the company is encouraging its customers to lock in for longer periods of time. Customers who used up to 2,000 kilowatts each month could get a 12-month contract for 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour in May compared to the same plan for 9.1 cents per kilowatt hour one year earlier.
The increase in retail rates come as companies prepare for surging prices in the wholesale electricity markets where they buy their power. Forecasts of higher than normal temperatures and record power demand are coinciding with the shutdown of at least three coal-fired plants, leading to concerns that temporary shortages on the hottest summer days could send wholesale prices, which typically average less than $50 per megawatt hour, spiking to $3,000 per megawatt hour or higher. (A megawatt hour is 1,000 kilowatt hours.)

In order to become a full-fledged professional, a person must undergo an apprenticeship with master and journeyman electricians. An apprentice needs 8,000 hours of practical work before graduating to the journeyman level. If an apprentice reaches journeyman status, he or she can complete most electrical work, but cannot design it until completing more testing along with 2,000 more on-the-job hours.
First Choice Power has been certified as a retail electricity provider in Texas since 2001. Offering many types of plans, First Choice Power also makes a point of supporting the communities it is a part of. Across Texas, First Choice Power invests in hunger relief programs and offers grants to local organizations making a difference in their communities.
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.
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.
Texas has one of the most thriving electricity markets in the country, and Houston is reaping the benefits. In a state that has plenty of oil, as well as a rapidly growing renewable sector, electricity providers are flocking to its largest city in search of customers. This is good news for residents of the city of Houston. Companies are competing for electricity contracts, and are willing to offer customers great deals to get business.
TXU is high because they charge their customers for the "fuel" to run their power plants - that's what the supervisor told us when we called to complain about my godmother's bill. Her actual usuage was $350 and they charged her an additional $350. And she didn't understand the bill so she had been paying it for months until we started looking at it. They are a rip off. Would never recommend them.
Should you choose a short-term, long-term, month-to-month, or prepaid plan? The short answer: it depends on your specific needs. How long do you anticipate living at your location? Are you deciding in the peak season (summer in Houston) or off season? All electricity providers in Houston offer a broad selection of plans for different contract lengths. Many also offer month-to-month and prepaid electricity plans. The bottom line is that everyone’s needs are different and all contract term lengths offer advantages and disadvantages.

The threat of price spikes have been long in the making, the result of changing economics of power production. The shale drilling boom produced record amounts of natural gas, which pushed prices to all-time lows and made gas-fired plants cheaper to operate than coal. Renewable energy such as wind is also producing abundant amounts of electricity at a lower cost than coal.


The average prices shown in these calculations represent average annual prices per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Some REPs charge rates that vary by season or usage level. As a result, the actual average price listed on a customer's bill for any given month may differ from that listed here, depending on the usage of the customer and the actual rates charged during that month. Please see the REP's Terms of Service document for the actual rates that will be charged by the REP.

We've pioneered our techniques and grown our expertise in the retail energy industry for more than a decade. With hundreds of thousands of customers and firm investor backing, we're a company you can count on. Spark Energy is also proud to be a publically traded company: our NASDAQ ticker is SPKE. Visit our investor relations page for more information.
Texas deregulated most of the state's electricity markets in 2002, a move aimed at lowering electricity costs by letting consumers choose their own electric power providers and their own plans. Some parts of Texas continued to be regulated, including those that get power from municipal utilities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities that operate outside the state's primary power grid.
1. After your contract ends, the energy company will send you a notification of your rate increasing to a variable rate (which usually translates to 2-3 cents higher/kWh by a certain date). They are supposed to notify you of this change. I've noticed as a customer, we get short-changed of one month from the contract rate (if you signed for 7 cents for 6 months, you'll only get that for 5 months). If you don't call, your rate goes up significantly if you don't call to change to a cheaper contract. Tell them you want the cheapest rate or you will cancel with their company.
As a result, power companies have shut down Texas coal plants unable to compete with lower-cost generators. Meanwhile, the low electricity prices of recent years — a function of cheap natural gas — and small profits have discouraged companies from investing in new power plants. ERCOT, which oversees about 90 percent of the state’s power grid, said power reserves that are called on when demand peaks on the hottest summer days have shrunk to the lowest levels since Texas deregulated power markets in 2002.
If you live in the greater Houston area, there are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business. Many of these providers have websites that are confusing and difficult to navigate, their rates buried in misleading advertising and dense jargon. Who has the time to sort through and keep track of options across all these different sites?
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