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.
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CenterPoint Intelligent Energy Solutions LLC, IES, which manages TrueCost, is not the same legal entity as CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp. (CERC) or CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC (CEHE), nor is IES regulated by the Railroad Commission of Texas or the Public Utility Commission of Texas. You do not have to buy products or services from IES in order to continue to receive quality regulated services from CERC or CEHE.
How does that work? Spark Energy buys electricity and competes in the market for the best price -- a competition that ultimately drives prices down and allows us to deliver more value for your money. In Texas, switching to a different electricity provider is kind of like changing to a different long distance company. When you switch to Spark Energy, the utility will continue to deliver electricity to your home but Spark Energy will handle all the billing, including the utility’s delivery fees and the electricity you actually use.
Even though it’s not ideal for either party, both customers and electric service providers have to purchase electricity at current market rates. Strategically timing your switch to a new electricity provider can help you score the best electric rates in a market that’s out of your control. Another way to feel more in control when switching energy suppliers is to sign up for a fixed-rate plan.
No deposit electricity plans also offer a subjective advantages. Thanks to smart meters, electricity providers can offer you smartphone apps that send notifications when your balance is getting low, so you can purchase more kilowatt-hours before your account drops to zero. However, this also means you will track your energy consumption more frequently, as opposed to only once per billing period. Energy consumers who monitor their kilowatt-hour usage tend to consume less energy that those who only wait for power bills once per billing period.
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.
A lot of these financial structures ultimately boil down to being a form of government guarantee, which means that they can’t be scaled up to “solve” countries’ power problems because the governments cannot carry all the liabilities. Countries try to introduce the private sector into power generation precisely to reduce such guarantees, which then end up returning through the back door in the form of government support.
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.
Nebraska is the only state that generates electricity entirely by publicly-owned power systems. As of 2017, the statewide average electricity price is the sixteenth-lowest rate in the country, based on the latest federal figures. Nationally, electricity costs 15 percent more than it does in Nebraska. Across all sectors, Hawaii has the highest electricity rate (26.07 cents), and Louisiana has the lowest electricity rate (7.75 cents).
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.
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.
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”.
Excessive Total Harmonic Distortions (THD) and not unity Power Factor (PF) is costly at every level of the electricity market. Cost of PF and THD impact is difficult to estimate, but both can potentially cause heat, vibrations, malfunctioning and even meltdowns. Power factor is the ratio of real to apparent power in a power system. Drawing more current results in a lower power factor. Larger currents require costlier infrastructure to minimize power loss, so consumers with low power factors get charged a higher electricity rate by their utility. True power factor is made of displacement power factor and THD. Power quality is typically monitored at the transmission level. A spectrum of compensation devices mitigate bad outcomes, but improvements can be achieved only with real-time correction devices (old style switching type, modern low-speed DSP driven and near real-time). Most modern devices reduce problems, while maintaining return on investment and significant reduction of ground currents. Power quality problems can cause erroneous responses from many kinds of analog and digital equipment, where the response could be unpredictable.
Keeping on top: With deregulation, a whole host of electric resellers jumped into the market because there’s a whole lot of electricity to sell: if Texas were a country, it’d be the 11th largest electricity consumer in the world! Just by itself, it uses as much electricity as Spain or Great Britain! That means there’s a whole lot of information you have to find, absorb, and process to make sure you’re getting the best rate for your needs.
Canadian electricity is cheap at 10 US cents per kilowatt hour, which is reflected in their high average electricity usage. US electricity prices at 0.12 $/kWh are also quite cheap internationally. In India and China they are very cheap. The UK is in the middle at 20 cents. It’s relatively expensive globally but not too bad for Europe, where most countries pay a high share of tax on their power.
A feed-in tariff (FIT) is an energy-supply policy that supports the development of renewable power generation. FITs give financial benefits to renewable power producers. In the United States, FIT policies guarantee that eligible renewable generators will have their electricity purchased by their utility. The FIT contract contains a guaranteed period of time (usually 15–20 years) that payments in dollars per kilowatt hour ($/kWh) will be made for the full output of the system.
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%
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.
Utility companies are responsible for transmission and delivery of electricity even in energy deregulated parts of Texas and should be contacted in the event of a power outage. Your retail energy supplier may provide you competitive electric rates or exceptional customer service, but they cannot repair power lines or restore your service. In the case of an emergency, contact:
Once you sign up for your new energy plan, your local utility will be notified of the change and begin your service from the alternative supplier at the beginning of your next billing cycle. Upon starting your energy supply service, your utility company will include this charge on your energy bill and continue to charge for the delivery service portion of your bill. Why? Because although your supplier may offer you a competitive rate for electricity supply, your utility is still in charge of the infrastructure that delivers energy to your home – such as power lines and energy meters.
Short-term prices are impacted the most by weather. Demand due to heating in the winter and cooling in the summer are the main drivers for seasonal price spikes. In 2017, the United States is scheduled to add 13 GW of natural-gas fired generation to its capacity. Additional natural-gas fired capacity is driving down the price of electricity, and increasing demand.
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.
†Offer is available to Texas residential customers who enroll using the Promotion Code “NIGHTSFREE”. Plan bills a monthly Base Charge, an Energy Charge, and passes through Utility Transmission and Distribution delivery charges. Energy Charges for usage consumed between 9pm and 7am each day is credited back on your bill. The utility charges, including delivery charges for night time hours, are passed through at cost and aggregated on your bill. See Electricity Facts Label for details.