Ironically, technology can make the utilities’ problem worse, not better—at least in the short term. In the past, grids were developed because it was cheaper to generate large quantities of power and distribute it over wide distances, rather then generate smaller quantities closer to the place of use. It is for this reason that electricity is seen as a business that benefits from “economies of scale”.
The inclusion of renewable energy distributed generation and AMI in the modern electricity grid has introduced many alternative rate structures. Simple (or fixed) rate, tiered (or step) rate, TOU, demand rates, tiered within TOU, seasonal, and weekend/holiday rates are among the few residential rate structures offered by modern utilities. The simple rate charges a specific dollar per kilowatt ($/kWh) consumed. The tiered rate is one of the more common residential rate programs, and it charges a higher rate as customer usage increases. TOU and demand rates are structured to help maintain/control a utility’s peak demand. The concept at its core is to discourage customers from contributing to peak-load times by charging them more money to use power at that time.
When it comes to pinpointing specific months rather than seasons, every part of the country has its own highest- and lowest-demand months. For example, hotter states, such as Texas, have their lowest demand anytime between December and March. When it comes to your own location, you can determine typical demand trends by taking a look at your area’s weather patterns or your billing records that showcase your personal monthly demand levels.
You betcha! Most Texas electricity suppliers offer plans that include a percentage of energy sourced from renewable resources, such as hydro power, wind power and solar power. Some are totally sourced that way. These plans are a great way for Texas energy customers to help the environment without breaking the bank. In addition to green energy plans, many Texas suppliers give customers the option to purchase renewable energy certificates, or RECs, that further offset customers’ carbon emissions. The purchase of RECs also helps fund research and usage of renewable energy sources, so that Texas can stay at the forefront of eco-friendly power technology.
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 UK has been a net importer of energy for over a decade, and as their generation capacity and reserves decrease the level of importing is reaching an all-time high. Their fuel price's dependence on international markets has a huge effect on the cost of electricity, especially if the exchange rate falls. Being energy dependent makes their electricity prices vulnerable to world events, as well.
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 whose power is proved by municipally-owned utilities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities that operate outside the state's primary power grid.
On the other hand, month-to-month variable rate (no-contract) plans don’t have cancellation fees. You won’t be penalized if you find a better deal elsewhere and want to make another switch. And, you won’t be stuck paying more than you should be if the market rate for electricity trends down. But, if it goes up, you’ll be paying more than your in-contract neighbors, and you’ll likely want to shop around again for a better deal.
Consumers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi were promised bargains on electricity when the Texas Legislature deregulated the electricity market. But 16 years later they're still paying more for electricity than their counterparts in cities Texas lawmakers exempted from deregulation such as Austin and San Antonio, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power which analyzed federal electricity pricing data.