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.
Electricity pricing (sometimes referred to as electricity tariff or the price of electricity) varies widely from country to country and may vary significantly from locality to locality within a particular country. Many factors go into determining an electricity tariff, such as the price of power generation, government subsidies, local weather patterns, transmission and distribution infrastructure, and industry regulation. “Electricity prices generally reflect the cost to build, finance, maintain, and operate power plants and the electricity grid.” Some utilities are for-profit, and their prices will also include a financial return for shareholders and owners. Electricity tariffs vary by type of customer, typically by residential, commercial, and industrial connections. Electricity price forecasting is the method by which a generator, utility company, or large industrial consumer can predict the wholesale prices of electricity with reasonable accuracy. The cost to supply electricity varies minute by minute.
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!
Power generation projects, which have to sell their power to these bankrupt utilities, require creative financing structures to get around these problems. In a bid to reduce their risk when financing these projects, bankers employ financial tools like put call options agreement or World Bank partial risk guarantees. The problem is these tools add complexity and cost which end up being passed on to the end-user or worsen the financial state of the power utility.
Residents of California paid an average of 19.65 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for their electricity in July, one of the highest rates in the country and well above the U.S. average of 13.12 cents/kWh. However, they use an average of 547 kWh per month, well below the U.S. average of 897. That leaves the state with a Choose Energy Price Index score of 92.9, which places it 17th nationally.
3. Customer service: When the only utility available has lousy customer service, nobody is surprised. They don’t even pretend to care – they know they have you over a barrel. With all these new players in town, however, it’s a slap in the face to be treated like royalty until you’ve signed on the dotted line and now they won’t even return your calls or the person on the phone can’t string three English words together or if he does speak English, he’s brand new and panicking trying to pull up your account information.
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?
The problem is that across Africa, the vast majority of the power utilities are effectively bankrupt. Another World Bank study (pdf) on African Utilities shows that only two of the 39 African utilities surveyed, in the Seychelles and Uganda, were able to generate enough cash to cover both their operating costs and capital expenditures necessary to invest in the maintenance and expansion of the grid. In fact, only 19 of the 39 companies were able to generate enough cash to cover their day-to-day operating costs. It means the rest were not even able to pay everyday costs, like salaries, in full.
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.
Prepaid electricity plans are yet another option available to Texas customers. Prepaid plans let you avoid credit checks and deposits by pre-paying for your electricity. Prepaid electricity plans typically do not have a fixed duration and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. Shopping for prepaid electricity can often yield relatively cheap electricity with no deposit. See Prepaid Electricity: Is It Right For Me? for more.
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.
Customers can find deals in competitive electricity markets if they take the time and effort to look at web sites such as powertochoose.org, the official comparison shopping site of the Public Utility Commission. The study cited a PUC survey of retail electricity offerings in Houston that showed nine deals in March that were lower than the regulated price of electricity in San Antonio.
In terms of renewable sources like solar and wind, weather impacts supply. California’s duck curve[cite] shows the difference between electricity demand and the amount of solar energy available throughout the day. On a sunny day, solar power floods the electricity generation market and then drops during sunless evening, when electricity demand peaks.
Dallas area residents now have the option for choosing their electric provider. However, with all of the different plans that are available, it can be difficult to make the right decision for your particular electricity needs. You may find yourself overwhelmed by the number of options presented to you by all the electric company advertisements or concerned about shady marketing gimmicks.