In a deregulated market such as Texas, the power to choose puts more control in your hands over your electricity supply, the renewable energy programs you take part in, and ultimately the amount you pay for energy.
In Texas, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) created Power to Choose and the official website, powertochoose.org. With its interactive comparison tool, this free service connects you with all the options that each of the state’s electric utilities offers.
In addition, the site has objective information about the plans offered by all Texas retail electricity providers (REP). As a result, you can find pricing information and detailed explanations of each plan’s fine print.
In this article, we’ll help you understand the valuable resource that is Power to Choose.
Why Did PUCT Create Power to Choose?
When the Texas legislature deregulated the state’s energy market in 2002, Texans got the power to choose their own retail electric providers. As a result, there are hundreds of electricity providers (REP) in Texas, and each has various rate plans that fit Texas residents‘ energy needs.
Some Texas cities and municipalities, such as San Antonio and Austin, along with investor-owned utilities, were exempted from deregulation. These areas get their retail electricity from a municipality-owned utility, an electrical cooperative, or non-Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) utility.
A deregulated market boosts competition, with REPs vying to offer current and prospective customers the best energy plan. In deregulated markets, energy providers generate and distribute electricity and natural gas for local electric companies. As a result, business and residential customers can choose the best energy plan that fits their needs and budgets.
With Texans indulged in choice, there is an abundance of information. As such, the PUCT created powertochoose.org as a free tool for like-to-like comparisons of each REP’s many plans and features. Because it’s an objective resource that doesn’t favor one company over another, Power to Choose assures Texas residents are fully informed of their options.
There are many ways to compare REPs and their plans. For more information about deregulation and choosing your utility, you can read “Power to Choose Texas: Make Energy Deregulation Work for You.”
What Questions Should I Ask About The Power to Choose Electricity Rates?
The Power to Choose website’s Questions to Ask page offers several important considerations when looking for a retail electric provider. Start by asking your old provider the questions listed on the site. You can then identify areas of concern to investigate with a potential new REP. It’s helpful to have your monthly kiloWatt hour (kWh) consumption information when you call.
Power to Choose: What Are Some Important Questions to Ask?
Be sure you understand your current electricity plan by asking detailed questions about your rate, term length, and contract.
The FAQs on the Power to Choose Questions to Ask page recommends getting answers to numerous questions before switching to a new plan and rate. Make notes about the answers you get from either the energy provider‘s customer service representative or the Power to Choose comparison tool.
Below are a few questions to ask.
What Can I Expect to See on My Electricity Bill?
A good thing to find out is whether your utility company is the same as the supplier.
A local utility sells you electricity in deregulated energy markets, but an alternate supplier could be responsible for energy generation and distribution. Chances are, your local utility doesn’t own the power lines.
Instead, a distribution company supplies the electricity to your home or business. Your area’s distribution utility will also charge you. That can mean a consolidated bill that details services from your supplier and the distribution supplier. Or you might get two bills: one from each energy provider.
The Power to Choose: What Are the Different Electricity Rate Plans ?
Different companies have different electric rates and plans, so it’s good to find out what’s available and what the differences are between them. Having this information will help you determine what’s best for your household.
Some of the electricity plans that may be available include:
Variable-Rate Plan: A variable-rate plan reacts to the production costs incurred by the alternate suppliers. Fuel prices, maintenance, grid operation, and maintenance all play a role in determining your fee. Availability, state regulations, weather, and location also influence pricing. Power to Choose displays the rate you’ll be charged on your first bill. Your retail energy provider sets the rate for subsequent months and usually gives you 30 days’ notice of the change.
Fixed-Rate Plan: With a fixed-rate plan, you’re locked in on the kWh price you pay for the length of your contract. Regardless of the factors impacting the electric power market, you can be assured your rate per kWh remains steady during the contract period. However, suppose you want to terminate your contract before it expires. In that case, Power to Choose helps you determine if there are any cancellation fees so that you can factor that cost into your calculations.
Indexed Rate Plan: An indexed rate electricity plan is a more stable form of a variable-rate plan. Index-rate plans are tied to a published market price index. With an indexed plan, the price per kilowatt-hour will change at specified points during the life of your contract. The best-known example of an index is the Consumer Price Index. However, the index energy providers use is most likely linked to fuel prices.
If you opt for an indexed rate for your electricity, be sure to check your contract for a monthly minimum power use requirement. Minimum usage fees may apply if your usage level doesn’t meet the set minimum kWh per month.
The Power to Choose: What Should I Understand About My Electricity Plan Contract?
Always read the fine print of your plan’s terms and conditions; they describe your rights and responsibilities and what your electricity provider is obligated to provide.
When looking over your plan, be sure to pay attention to the Electricity Facts Label (EFL). Your EFL will describe the plan details, outlining the average rate you’ll pay depending on usage levels, the percentage of green energy used in your plan, your base charges, and any early termination charges that may apply.
Then, if you’ve done your homework and investigated plans on powertochoose.org, or if you’ve called the energy company directly, you’ll have a firm grasp of what’s on offer.
Other information to look for when considering a new rate plan or service provider:
- Termination fees
- Minimum use charges
- Types of programs that may be available (such as green energy or renewable energy choices)
- Plan terms
How Do I Get Started on Power to Choose?
Whether you live in Houston, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, or some other Texas city, your ZIP code is the key to determining your eligibility to choose. To find out, it’s as simple as entering your ZIP code and selecting either the Narrow Your Choices or View Plans button. The Power to Choose website also has a user guide to help you understand and navigate the filters.
The Power to Choose: How Can I Sort Out Energy Providers to Save Money?
The list of providers and plans that come up can be quite long because they include dozens of energy providers and their programs. However, the tool’s filters allow you to find competitive electricity plans that meet your needs.
- Tip: Have a calculator and several months’ worth of your current utility bills on hand. You’ll be asked about your electricity usage, and your monthly bills will help you calculate that.
Another decision you’ll be asked to make is the contract’s plan term. While 24 months is typical, you can also choose month-to-month, 12-, or 36-month periods. Something to keep in mind is that longer plans are usually more cost-effective.
Other considerations will help narrow your choices. Questions you’ll need to answer include the following options. At each step, a comparison tool will provide valuable information about the implications of your selections.
- The price per kWh (kiloWatt hour)
- Any prepaid plans
- Time-of-use plans
- Company ratings
As you enter your filters, you’ll narrow the number of available companies and plans. For example, if you don’t put in a range of kWh prices, you’ll have too many choices. Similarly, if your rate price is too narrow, you may miss out on lower rates. Be sure to refresh your results every time you make changes in your filters.
Finally, pay attention to any termination fees, which take effect if you cancel your existing plan before the plan’s term expires.
Once you’ve identified viable options, you can contact the REP and run through your questions with one of their customer service representatives.
How Can I Have More Control Over My Electric Bill?
The February 2021 winter storm in Texas is a prime example of why you should carefully choose a provider and plan.
The Texas storm heavily impacted electricity rates, which soared to $9 per kWh in some areas — about 75 times the state average of 13 cents per kWh. A fixed-rate plan, which guarantees pricing during the contract term, will help avoid such pricing spikes.
Other factors, such as supply and demand, influence electricity pricing in a deregulated market. When plentiful, electricity rates tend to be lower, the reverse is true: electricity supply shortages mean higher prices.
What Kind of Energy Plans Are There?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified three main types of energy:
- Conventional Energy
- Renewable Energy
- Green Energy
This type of power relies on burning fossil fuels to produce energy, which is extremely hard on the environment. The carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity pollute the ocean and the atmosphere. Coal and natural gas production are also detrimental to surrounding ecosystems.
The EPA also classifies nuclear power as a conventional power source because of the issues arising from uranium mining and extraction and storing spent fuel and heavy water.
Nuclear energy supplies about 20% of the U.S. electricity market. The high cost of building a nuclear-powered electricity plant and the problems associated with nuclear waste disposal means there is less nuclear plant development.
Increasingly, REPs such as Just Energy are looking for clean energy solutions. Whether it’s through renewable resources or carbon offsets, there are plenty of options for you to feel good about the electricity resources you choose.
Natural resources that regenerate themselves are called renewable energy. Energy production using wind, hydroelectric, solar, geothermal, or biofuel has some environmental impact. However, its effect is negligible compared to conventional fossil fuel energy production.
In addition, these renewable energy resources have a low carbon impact. That means fewer CO2 and methane emissions into the atmosphere. And that is the key to slowing global warming and its result: climate change.
A subcategory of renewable energy is green power. The EPA has defined green power as “electricity produced by biogas, eligible biomass, geothermal, small, low-impact hydroelectric sources, solar, and wind.” For consumers interested in reducing their carbon footprints and looking for a zero-emissions profile, green energy is the best energy plan choice.
Powertochoose.org‘s comparison tool helps Texas residents learn more about the energy resources behind the many electricity plans available.
Why Should I Exercise My Power to Choose an Electricity Provider In Texas?
In Texas‘ deregulated electricity markets, you’re required to choose a retail electric provider. If you don’t select one, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) will assign a REP for you. However, ERCOT’s assigned REP may not be the ideal solution for your budget and lifestyle.
By choosing your own provider and plan, you reap the benefits of having the best electricity plan for your specific situation. Deregulation is meant to provide you with choices, so why not take advantage of the power to choose?
Brought to you by justenergy.com
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The post The Power to Choose appeared first on Just Energy.
By: Just Energy
Title: The Power to Choose
Sourced From: justenergy.com/blog/power-to-choose-faqs-texas/
Published Date: Fri, 06 Aug 2021 15:24:08 +0000
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