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).
Since consumer demand directly affects energy rates, it’s important to note seasonal trends of demand throughout the year. Overall, demand tends to be higher during the winter and summer months and lower during the fall and spring months. This pattern isn’t shocking since it’s normal for people to require more energy during extreme heat and extreme cold.
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No. When you’ve chosen a new deal, your new supplier will handle the switching process. They’ll contact you to let you know what date you’ll be transferred over, and they’ll contact you around the switching date to ask for a meter reading. They’ll pass this on to your old supplier so they can send you a final bill. You don’t need to contact your old supplier, as the new supplier will handle everything for you.
But competition didn't necessarily end up cutting prices, according to the report. One contributing factor is confusion among customers as they try to choose among scores of retail electricity providers and the overwhelming variation of plans, leading many to just stick with familiar companies rather than look for better deals, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power .
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.
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Aside from times of natural disasters and large-scale accidents, electricity prices tend to be steadily dictated by electricity demand. Typically, the price of electricity rises when demand rises. In turn, the lower demand is, the cheaper electricity rates become. This pattern is due to the fact that increased demand requires increased energy production. When extra energy is demanded, utilities are forced to use alternative sources of energy production that may cost more to operate. For example, when electricity demand reaches a high point in Texas, coal plants are used alongside the typical natural gas plants. These coal plants are costlier and less effective than natural gas plants, but are necessary to meet high electricity demand levels.
It’s very important to do your own research to understand the business focus of the company you are considering, as well as tax advantages (and possible disadvantages) if the company is a limited partnership. For example, Seadrill Ltd. SDRL, -1.72% provides offshore-drilling services worldwide. Seadrill Partners LLC SDLP, -3.22% operates offshore-drilling rigs under specific contracts with several major oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM, +0.17% and Chevron Corp. CVX, -0.43%
To skirt the late summer electricity rate hikes, a little bit of planning can really pay off. Try to avoid signing new long-term electricity contracts in late summer. While it may be impossible to escape signing a new electricity contract if you’re moving during that time, just know that a short-term plan may make more sense until the rates go back down in the fall. That way you’re not stuck paying a premium rate for an entire year or more.
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?
Another unwelcome side effect of not knowing your average monthly kWh usage level is that you may end up paying more than you expect. This can occur when a customer inadvertently shops an electric rate based on a higher usage level than they actually use. Electricity suppliers commonly advertise their electric rates associated with the highest (2000 kWh) usage levels since those tend to be the lowest rates.
Anyone on a standard rate tariff is at risk of seeing rising energy bills – so one of the best ways to protect from energy price increases is to switch to a fixed rate tariff. This means that for the duration of the deal, the cost of your energy and gas will be fixed. You may be able to switch to a cheaper fixed price tariff at any point, or you may have to pay a fee if you switch before the end of the deal – so check your paperwork.
2. Fraud: Too many people have been victimized by glib sales reps with promises of cheap electricity flowing in an unending stream only to discover that, as is so often true, “it ain’t necessarily so”. They’ve been locked into unwanted term contracts or there’s a catch – some utilities will give you the great rate only if you meet a usage minimum; basically, the “rate” is, in actuality, a “bulk purchase” discounted fee – or they paid a deposit never to hear from the rep again.
OPEC nations, along with Russia and Mexico, have refused to cut production, which is their traditional tool to prop up oil prices, out of fear of losing market share to the U.S., which has transformed the international oil market by greatly expanding hydraulic fracturing over the past decade. And U.S. producers might not lower production as quickly as some investors expect because of the significant improvement in the efficiency of horizontal fracturing wells.
Technology also provides a long-term answer, even if it contributes to the problem in the short-term, as described earlier. As renewable power and storage technologies become cheaper and more efficient they will gradually allow for the implementation of cheaper mini-grids and smart grids, increasingly within the reach of the really poor, even in urban areas. Perhaps, grids will one day become marketplaces allowing people to sell excess power from their solar installations to those who have a need for power at that time. Prices can be set dynamically to allow supply to match demand.
Even though customers in deregulated cities routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated cities like Houston and regulated cities like San Antonio have dwindled to the narrowest point ever to 8.8 percent. Back in 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
Fixed-rate plans: Fixed-rate plans give customers more stability for their monthly energy bills because the rate a customer signs up with is the rate he or she pays for the length of the plan’s contract. Most fluctuation comes with usage, though transmission and delivery charges and local fees also can change.. Because a fixed-rate plan sometimes spans two-three years, these plans often require a customer credit check and can include early cancellation fees. Fixed-rate plans, because of the continuing market volatility, probably are the best choice for many consumers.
Net metering is another billing mechanism that supports the development of renewable power generation, specifically, solar power. The mechanism credits solar energy system owners for the electricity their system adds to the grid. Residential customers with rooftop PV system will typically generate more electricity than their home consumes during daylight hours, so net metering is particularly advantageous. During this time where generation is greater than consumption, the home’s electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit on the homeowner’s electricity bill.
Technology that now allows smaller quantities of power to be generated closer to the end-users at prices not too much higher than grid-based power are undermining those economies of scale. More efficient turbines, for example, allow large power users like cement plants and petrochemical factories to come off the grid. Today the limiting factor for large companies to come off the grid often isn’t the efficiency of the power generation technology, but the lack of easy availability of fuel, such as gas or coal to power these turbines Even this problem is being solved by innovations like mini-liquefied natural gas projects.
Dallas area residents now have the option for choosing their electric provider. However, with all of the different plans that are available, it can be difficult to make the right decision for your particular electricity needs. You may find yourself overwhelmed by the number of options presented to you by all the electric company advertisements or concerned about shady marketing gimmicks.