Electric bills for customers in the Houston area can more than double in summer months, mainly because air conditioning. Not coincidentally, electric rates also rise in the summer months because of this increase in demand. The most dramatic rate increases occur in month-to-month plans, but electric rates do increase across the board for all fixed-rate contract lengths.
Studies show that generally demand for electricity is driven largely by temperature. Heating demand in the winter and cooling demand (air conditioners) in the summer are what primarily drive the seasonal peaks in most regions. Heating degree days and cooling degree days help measure energy consumption by referencing the outdoor temperature above and below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, a commonly accepted baseline.
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.
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.
July 2018 data, the latest available, show that the average U.S. price – 13.12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) – was down 0.7% compared with a year ago. If you live in Louisiana, you pay the lowest average residential electricity rates of any state in the country – 9.37 cents per kWh. The next lowest rate is in Washington, where residents pay an average of 9.79 cents per kWh.
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.
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