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?
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.
Energy deregulation has been in place for several years however there are still a lot of people who are confused or who have not fully understand the implications, structure, details and workings of energy deregulation. Many simply know that energy deregulation means people now have the power to choose their electric companies – a diversion from the previous system where a single utility company provides services for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.
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.
Then, in 2002, Texas deregulated the electricity market and everybody cheered! Except that, sure, deregulation opened up the market to competition that may (or may not) have resulted in lower rates, but it introduced a whole host of other issues. These issues may not have been factors before but now they’re critical when you’re on the look-out for cheap Houston electricity providers.
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.
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”.
Even though customers in deregulated Texas markets routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated and regulated market has shrunk to 8.8 percent. In 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
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.
Most common distribution network and generation is done with 3 phase structures, with special attention paid to the phase balancing and resulting reduction of ground current. It is true for industrial or commercial networks where most power is used in 3 phase machines, but light commercial and residential users do not have real-time phase balancing capabilities. Often this issue leads to unexpected equipment behavior or malfunctions and in extreme cases fires. For example, sensitive professional analogue or digital recording equipment must be connected to well-balanced and grounded power networks. To determine and mitigate the cost of the unbalanced electricity network, electric companies in most cases charge by demand or as a separate category for heavy unbalanced loads. A few simple techniques are available for balancing that require fast computing and real-time modeling.
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 that get power from municipal utilities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities that operate outside the state's primary power grid.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Residential and business consumers in deregulated energy markets have the power to choose their energy supplier. The power to choose gives consumers the opportunity to compare suppliers and find energy plans that satisfy their usage needs and budget requirements. Whether in a deregulated city in Texas, New York, Ohio or another state, you can shop for electricity or natural gas and find the best plan for you!