There’s some smart money placing big bets on a rebound for oil. Blackstone Group LP BX, +0.75% President Hamilton “Tony” James said last month that the company was “scrambling” to invest up to $10 billion in energy companies, according to Bloomberg. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman said during the company’s earnings call on Jan. 29 that the majority of Blackstone’s energy investments were “oil-price agnostic, including energy-transportation infrastructure where we have off-take agreements, merchant power, renewables and other types of energy-oriented investing.”
With over 2.3 million residents, Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth most populated in the United States. Encompassing over six hundred square miles, Houston stands as the fifth most popular metropolitan area in the country and gets its name from the commander who won Texas’ independence from Mexico in 1836. The city lies in the southeastern portion of the state within a deregulated Electricity market and as such, allows residents to select an energy provider from the various service companies that serve the state.
A feed-in tariff (FIT) is an energy-supply policy that supports the development of renewable power generation. FITs give financial benefits to renewable power producers. In the United States, FIT policies guarantee that eligible renewable generators will have their electricity purchased by their utility. The FIT contract contains a guaranteed period of time (usually 15–20 years) that payments in dollars per kilowatt hour ($/kWh) will be made for the full output of the system.
For example, in 2012, Hawaii residents had the highest average residential electricity rate in the United States (37.34¢/kWh), while Louisiana residents had the lowest average residential electricity costs (8.37¢/kWh). Even in the contiguous United States the gap is significant, with New York residents having the highest average residential electricity rates in the lower 48 U.S. states (17.62¢/kWh).
Using an average of 1,063 kWh of power each month, Houston’s electricity consumption rates exceed the national average by over 100 kWh. As a city however, it does manage to maintain a lower monthly energy charge than the rest of the US, incurring an average fee of $99 in comparison to the $112 national monthly average. To further save on their plans each month, residents can choose from a selection of Texas-based energy suppliers and service plans.
In summary, fixed-rate plans provide a level of certainty and stability in your energy charge since the price will not fluctuate over the life of your contract. If prices suddenly spike, you are protected because your rate is locked in. The flip side is that if rates drop over the life of your contract, you’ll be stuck paying the higher rate. You can incur steep cancellation fees if you change electricity plans or providers before the end of your contract term.
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.
You can sort, filter, and shop by pricing at YOUR specific usage level, which lets you shop and compare electricity plans based on the rates you’ll actually experience on your bill, inclusive of hidden fees and taxes. This ensures you’re not misled by the cheaper rates often advertised by electric providers…those “teaser rates” associated with higher usage levels that many households never enjoy because their usage level never reaches that pricing tier.
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.
Twenty-nine states have deregulated electricity, natural gas or both. That allows you to shop for the supply portion of your bill from alternative providers who may offer rates lower than the default supplier – usually a utility. Delivery services and billing will remain the responsibility of the local utility as they own the power lines and wires that keep the lights on.