How to Choose a Texas Electric Provider the Wrong Way


Recently I read an analysis by Dr. Dan Wallach on Chuck Kuffner’s blog about how to find the best deal on electricity in Texas. Some areas in Texas allow consumers to choose the provider of electricity to their homes. (But not all – some cities – notably San Antonio and Austin – allow residents to purchase electricity only through a municipal provider. The jury is still out about whether privatizing electricity utilities in Texas has resulted in lower prices.   Many analysts have concluded that privatizing actually brings higher prices – but I continue to have hope that privatizing will eventually bring lower prices – and if not, an electrical grid that is more in keeping what Texas citizens want.

When you have to choose an electric provider yourself, you can make mistakes (as Dan Wallach explains). One mistake is trying to comparison-shop by comparing variable rates. When purchasing electricity using the website, they mix variable rates with fixed rates. Variable rates always start out low, but increase in price without ever seeming to go down. As a result, it becomes  practically impossible to compare these plans – and to do the diligence to monitor the plans actively enough to know when to switch again. Fixed rates are easier-to-compare, and I have found over the years I have found that fixed rate plans lasting 12 months tend to provide the best rates. 6 month rates are a little cheaper, and 24 months tend to be a lot more expensive (I think the 24 month plans factor in market uncertainty – a lot can change in 24 months!). The problem with these fixed rate plans is that after they expire, you are rolled onto a variable rate plan, with its ever-escalating rates. To this date, no electric provider has never sent me a reminder that my plan has expired or is about to expire; from the provider’s perspective, they benefit if you don’t notice that the fixed rate plan has expired, so why should they have to do your homework for you? (Fortunately, there is an easy solution—sign up for an email reminder service and instruct it to email you when the term is about to expire).

I am amazed at how easy it is to make a bad decision about electric providers.  A college friend with a PhD in Economics chose an expensive coal-laden TXU plan because he had just moved back to Texas and wasn’t aware that you had the ability to choose your provider – he just went with whatever someone told him about. (In two minutes, I was able to find him a plan which was 10% cheaper and 100% green).  Various acquaintances have chosen plans for the most illogical of reasons. One chose “Reliant” because it sounded “reliable” (Reliant-reliable – get it? I guess getting your name on the downtown stadium was good for something).  Another signed up for the coal-dirty Reliant because it had balanced-billing – never mind that it was significantly more expensive than the other plans. A friend chose a plan simply because a friend of hers had recommended it – that was also more expensive. Another friend opted not to choose the “renewable” plan because she didn’t want to have to renew it each time the fixed rate expired.  There are other not-so-obvious problems. When I had Dynawatt (a company I don’t recommend),  I could not make head or tail of the bill (no matter how long I studied it). Everything on the printed bill contradicted what the terms of my contract were, and when I called telephone support several times, each agent quoted me a different rate on my current plan – something which didn’t exactly inspire confidence.

4 Things You Need to Know about Choosing an Electric Provider in Texas

This blogpost is going to ramble, so I’ll summarize for people who are in a hurry and need  fast tips.

  1. Texas consumes more fossil fuels than any other state in the US. If Texas were a nation, it would be the 7th largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Electric plants in Texas (population 25 million) emit as much CO2  as electric plants in the COMBINED states of   New York, California, Florida, Massachusetts and Oregon (population: 86 million)
  2. 1 year Fixed-rate plans for 100% green (renewable) energy plans are on average 5-10% higher than comparable coal/natural gas plans.
  3. Don’t choose an electric provider which has received too many complaints. (Check the complaint scorecards on the PUC site and also Yelp if you want).

There is a fourth point, but let’s save that until the end.  First, let’s go over these three points.

1. Texas and Fossil Fuels

Texas has a massive climate change problem. Whenever you hear conservatives say that the real climate change problem is in India or China, remember this:  Texans emit probably 20-25 metric tons of CO2 every year, while Chinese consume about 5 (source); it isn’t even close. If you persuaded 10,000 Texans to adopt a greener lifestyle, that would produce a far greater ecological bang for the buck than if you persuaded 10,000 Chinese).

Compare the carbon footprint of California with that of Texas.  The population of California is 37 million people (compared to 25 million people in Texas). Here are the CO2 emissions for just the electric companies (i.e., that excludes transportation and industrial emissions).  Texas emits 242.8 million metric tons, while California emits 59.4 million metric tons. Here is a 2009 state-by-state comparison from the EIA website.


In one month, here is the source generation for electric power. Here it is for California:


Here it is for Texas:


In other words, California power companies produce substantially less electricity and they do it with substantially less natural gas and coal.

One reason it is not surprising that a politician like Rick Perry would be unapologetic about climate change is that he knows that the economy and the lifestyle of Texas is uniquely dependent on fossil fuels.  (We’re not even talking about the industrial emissions by petrochemical companies or auto gasoline consumption – although you can find more data here about it).

It is true that Texas has also been producing a lot of energy from wind power – that is  a recent development.  That has happened not only because Texas has increased the amount of wind power in its state energy portfolio, but also because electric providers are selling renewable energy credits on the free market.

2. 100% Green Energy Plans cost only about 5-10% more than Dirty Energy Plans

I don’t know if Dr. Wallach did  this on purpose or just made a mistake, but his data  imply something  inaccurate. He shows you a comparison of “dirty plans” with “100% clean plans.” The dirty plans he selects  cost from 5.3 cents  to 5.5 cents per kilowatt, while the 100% clean plans cost 9.3 cents to 10.4 cents. That is something which would make most consumers pause – even if they wanted to choose green plans.

Unfortunately this data is wrong or misleading. I don’t know what the specific zip code or what day he did the query (prices change on a daily basis), but it seems to me that he is comparing the variable dirty plans with the fixed rate clean plans. But he just got done demonstrating how misleading it is to judge a plan by its variable plan and then he proceeds to use it as a legitimate basis for comparison.

I agree that variable rate quotations are misleading. They include promotional offers as well as lots of uncertainties (and unspecified price increases).  A far more reliable comparison is to compare fixed rate dirty plans with fixed rate clean plans.

Here is what I found for comparing 1 year fixed plans in the zip code 77057  on September 20. Unfortunately the browser only displays the top 3 plans, but in fact under the top 3 are about 5-7 companies with similar prices.

Here are the top dirty plans:



Here are the top clean plans:



Unlike Dr. Wallach’s misleading charts (which show a spread as wide as 4 cents a kilowatt), in fact the spread is only .5 cents as kilowatt. Perhaps you may say the  day I chose  is a fluke; but try it yourself if you don’t believe me.  The reason I know that there’s only a 5% cost difference is that in my checking over the last 5 years, it has almost always been true.

Renewable Energy Credits: Is It Really Green Energy?

The original article by Dr. Wallach casts doubt about whether the 100% renewable plans are in fact green.   There are valid concerns about the effects of using Renewable Energy Credits (REC’s), but the criticism is usually wrong-headed.

When Texas privatized its energy market, it created Retail Electric Providers (REPs) and Transmission and Distribution Utilities (TDU). The REPs are private companies, while TDUs are the utilities that service the actual lines (in my area, the TDU is Centerpoint). The  Electric Reliability Council of Texas  (ERCOT)  is the corporation that maintains the power grid.Oh, the acronyms!

The important thing to remember here is that generally the REPs are not in the business of power generation; they are in the business of customer service and buying energy  from the open market which it packages to consumers.  I don’t know the nitty gritty details of how this open market works; suffice to say it’s a tightly regulated industry with  oversight and probably subject to political influence.

So when you say that the green plan you purchased is not a “genuine” green plan because the REP doesn’t run the windmills is simply restating the obvious; it is beside the point.

When you purchase a green plan, you are authorizing the REP to purchase a Renewable Energy Credit (REC)  which are issued by ERCOT for producing renewable energy. RECs are used not only in places with privatized energy markets, but also other states and even  Texas municipal power companies like CPS (San Antonio) and Austin Energy (Austin).

The original article implied that REC’s are not reliable or effective. It linked to a PDF of a study which purports to show the problems with RECs. The PDF linked to comes from the Center for Energy Economics/Bureau of Economic Geology, an energy thinktank at UT-Austin. This sounds neutral enough, except that most of its research and published reports seem to be about natural gas – curiously they have no reports about carbon emissions or impact of climate change or even renewable energies. The main funders of the CEE  read like a who’s who list of the world’s most notorious polluters and carbon emitters. So I remain cautious about the source. (Dec 2012 Update: My hunch was well-founded. Apparently CEE has been implicated in a major conflict of interest about a recent fracking study — the University “found numerous errors and flaws with how the study was conducted and released, as well as University of Texas policies for disclosing conflicts of interest.” I think this raises issues about the other studies as well).

The Off the Kuff blogpost implies that  the REC market is defective and cites as an example for this that once the REC prices  went negative. Actually there was a good explanation for why that happened, and the concern is not really relevant now.

But first, it is necessary to mention another acronym: RPS (which means Renewable Portfolio Standard). Before a market for energy was created, states determined the mix of their fuel sources. Now, with privatization, this authority has been decentralized, but states are still entrusted with setting overall goals about the fuel source.

There is kind of an inherent conflict between these two mechanisms. RPS is a top-down mechanism (as are city-owned utilities), while REC’s are more closely tied to the market and fluctuate according to supply and demand. Most states like Texas have committed to expanding an RPS while at the same time allowing REC’s to be bought and sold by licensed generators of electricity.

Each REC has a serial number valid for 3 years which indicates

  • the facility where the electricity was generated
  • the type of renewable resource
  • the year and quarter of generation and
  • a unique identifier for specific MWh produced by the facility that produced that quarter.

All power companies which sell electricity to residents are required to buy these kinds of RECs. Texas uses Green-E, “the nation’s leading independent consumer protection program for the sale of renewable energy and greenhouse gas reductions in the retail market.”  Green-e uses a verification process to ensure that it

  • is from new projects. It’s important that renewable energy certificates (RECs) support new projects built for the voluntary market, not to satisfy a state or federal requirement. That’s because consumers who are buying renewable energy want their money to go toward expanding the renewable energy market. Green”‘e Energy Certified RECs come from new facilities built with the voluntary market in mind.
  • is verified. Sellers of Green”‘e Energy Certified renewable energy are reviewed twice a year to ensure that they live up to their advertising claims, and that their customers are getting what they paid for. Certified energy is accounted for and tracked through the annual Green”‘e Energy verification audit process.
  • has not been double-counted. Certified renewable energy sold to a consumer cannot also be counted toward a state’s renewable energy goal (a renewable portfolio standard, for example). Renewable energy must only be attributed to the individual customer purchasing it.

In fact, after Texas started dealing with REC’s, in 2005, it was considering a a bill which might have resulted in the  RECs being  double-counted towards the overall portfolio. As a result, Green-E threatened to decertify all of Texas’ RECs. In response,  the Texas legislature in 2007 passed language that essentially made this double-counting impossible. Subsequently, Green-e revoked its warning.

Using RECs for renewable energy is a tested market mechanism, and in Texas it has basically worked as planned.  The blogpost pointed out that the price of RECs temporarily went negative, but that was simply a market hiccup when wind energy was coming  online more quickly than anticipated and transmission capability of the power grid was temporarily unable to handle the load. Eventually the transmission capability caught up, and it has no longer been a problem. Even the report cited in the original article reached the conclusion that “Transmission expansion will remove the need for negative bidding unless of course a lot more wind or non-wind generation capability is built in West Texas than the CREZ lines can handle (p 20).

So the original article’s FUD regarding REC seems unjustified. Using RECs is an indirect mechanism for purchasing energy, but it is verified, and it has the socially desirable effect of encouraging more renewable energy to be produced and sold.  Interestingly, there have been times when renewable energy has been cheaper than dirty energy and in August, when there was extreme demands on the power grid,  and   power supplies were stretched to their limits,  extra wind generation – not the allegedly reliable coal or natural gas –  made up the difference.

The Moral Argument for Renewable Energy

Now it is time for me to make my fourth point.

4. Because of the disproportionate amount of carbon emissions made by Texas, residents have a special responsibility to become more informed about their energy choices and express their preferences with their wallets.

You can’t just be neutral about what fuel source you are using to power your home. In privatized markets, you can’t pretend that the only consideration is the base energy price when your choice could have long term implications on what kind of world that  future generations will be living in.

That’s the main problem I had with the original blogpost. Its argument seemed to work like this: because there were questions about using RECs, therefore Texans are justified in choosing any dirty energy plan they damn well please.  I reject both premises, but  why we can’t admit that reducing carbon emissions is in fact an important and worthy goal?

Sure, I’ll grant that using R.E.C. may sometimes be an imperfect financial mechanism in the real world,  but is that a reason never to use them? The reason that RECs are important is that they are the primary way that consumers have for supporting a low-carbon economy in Texas.  Choosing which electric plan you use for your residence may be the single most important act you can do to reduce future climate change.

The original blogpost talked about the need to conserve energy and perhaps adding a mechanism for consumers to sell back energy they generated from solar energy. Sure, I’ll support that! Conservation and solar energy are an important long term strategy. Below is an image of solar water heaters on the roof in China. Do you know that 10% of Chinese homes use solar heaters whereas usage in the US is still barely taking off?


But solar energy is one part of the picture. It is also important to reduce the usage of electric plants which emit CO2! And in Houston, where the price difference remains 5-10%, that doesn’t seem like such a hideous sacrifice.

I have to wonder. Why doesn’t the website  view as one of its functions to educate consumers about carbon emissions?  Why can’t it show warning labels on the site (akin to the cigarette warning labels?) Why doesn’t the PUC and powertochoose stress the economic and environmental benefits of choosing renewable energies?

Yes, I said, economic benefits. Amidst all the pro-natural gas propaganda you find on the Hearst-owned Fuelfix site, this part is rarely covered. According to one economic analysis by University of Massachusetts,  private investments in renewable energies produce 3x more jobs than private investments in coal and natural gas (source). Several other analyses have reported similar results.  In a June 2011 speech to the Commonwealth Club of California,  Robert F. Kennedy remarked that whenever nations launch programs to decarbonize their economy, their society almost always experienced instantaneous wealth. (the mp3 is here—and it’s amazing; check especially the 10 minute mark).

Why isn’t our governor exhorting Texans to switch to green energy? I know – it’s Rick Perry, and he’s a bit of a lunatic, but wouldn’t a non-insane governor of Texas recognize the potential economic and political popularity of exhorting Texans to choose green?

Why does this state remain neutral about whether citizens choose dirty electric providers or clean ones? Why isn’t dirty electricity treated the same way in Texas as cigarettes – tolerated but vilified?

Finally, you remember my statistic about electric plants in Texas  emitting as much CO2  as the COMBINED states of   New York, California, Florida, Massachusetts and Florida. Why is this  true?  Is it because Texans are  stupid – or do we just not care?

Postscript:  Implications of Having a Crappy Web Interface

One last thing. I want to talk specifically about the website.

The fact that this site exists is a remarkable thing in itself.  It puts hard-to-find information in a central location, and lets the consumer filter  search results and compare companies according to certain criteria. Electric plans and options have often been confusing, and this interface makes it easy to find the basic facts. The filtering mechanisms are great!

On the other hand, a user may not be sure what  the interface actually means.

First, the viewing window  only shows 3 or 4 search results in the first screen.  You can scroll down, but when you require users to do that, you are implicitly discouraging users from scrolling down much. At best this limited viewing area only allows the user to consider the top 6 or 7 results. Often that is all the price-sensitive  customer wants, but  it prevents the consumer from considering plans which  might be more expensive … never mind the reason.

First,  they use a dropdown box for the field Renewable Content, and the default option is to choose ALL plans ( instead of Only 100%). This interface decision could have profound implications on user behavior.  How many users will simply leave it always on ALL  and see only the three cheapest plans  — which often happen to be the dirtiest energy?  As I have shown,  except for the misleading Variable Plans, the price difference between the clean and dirty plans is trivial, but the default view for the website is always to show the 3 or 4 cheapest & dirtiest plans.

It would have been relatively easy to change the GUI to make more information available to the consumer or to make the interface more neutral. Why couldn’t the filter panel on the left include two radio buttons (“100% Green”  and “Dirty” which would always be visible? Why doesn’t the interface have popup bubbles to explain what each feature means? It’s odd and quite pathetic that the most important option on the filter screen is politely hidden under an easily overlooked dropdown box.


When the state whose electric power plants lead the nation (and possibly even the world) in emitting heat-trapping gases and whose consumer information site is configured not to show affordable green energy alternatives, I have to wonder if there is a connection.

Oct 21 2011 Update. The Texas Electricity Ratings blog is a helpful source of information about all Texas energy companies and especially reports about  bad customer service.  This post lists the parent companies  of all the electricity providers in Texas, and here’s a great graphic of who owns what in Texas power. I did not know all this.

Oct 24 Update. Texas Electricity Ratings provides a good explanation of why variable rates seem to increase in price so often. It happens because electricity providers are allowed to list promotional rates as their normal rate – even though the promotional rates can last for as little as a month:

the very nature of month to month plans means that the monthly rate can change, up or down, depending on the cost of natural gas or even just the discretion of the REP (Retail Electricity Provider). So the prices are likely to move from month to month anyway. However, one thing is certain, the chances are good that their monthly rate will be substantially higher than the one they see advertised on shopping websites. Probably somewhere between 15-30% higher per kWh. So a price listed at 8.0 might actually end up being between 9 and 10 cents per kWh. And that is typically true across the board, regardless of the REP. At some point, the month to month rate will get substantially higher after the promotional period expires.


People sign up for month to month plan, and their promotional rate ends up only lasting for a week or two, as opposed to their first month of service. So how does that happen, particularly when everything can be promoted as a “First Month” promotional rate? Well, this is where things get a bit confusing, and where hopefully a little more information will help customers understand the electricity process. It’s not really the first month a customer gets at a promotional rate, but their first billing cycle. REP’s are at the mercy of the TDSPs (Oncor, Centerpoint, etc.) in this matter, although customers really have no way of knowing that. A customer’s billing cycle is based upon when the TDSP reads a customer’s meter, which happens once a month. And that date is different for everyone, although typically the meters are read around the same time each month. But one neighborhood might have their meters read in the first week of every month, while others might have it read in the last week of every month. What is consistent, is that a customer’s billing cycle is based upon when a TDSP reads their meter and then passes that information along to the customer’s electricity company, who then bills the customer. But it’s important to understand that introductory rates are based upon a customer’s first billing period, and not actually their first calendar month.

June 9 2015 Update. Here’s another rate finder search tool for finding the cheapest Texas energy provider.  The attached blog gives some helpful consumer advice plus the blog features a  periodic roundup of the best Texas rates  (such as this one).



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20 responses to “How to Choose a Texas Electric Provider the Wrong Way”

  1. Dan Wallach Avatar

    I enjoyed your article. I’d like to respond to a few of your comments.

    1) I wouldn’t go so far as to call my criticisms of green energy “FUD”. My point is simply that when you buy energy, the energy you’re getting (at least in the short term, i.e., less than one year) is coming from the same physical plants, no matter who you’re actually paying. You’re also buying RECs, which are encouraging the development of renewable power, and that’s great, but you’re not actually doing anything to reduce the carbon emissions at the other end of your power plug (again, at least in the short term). One curiosity is whether the demand for RECs is coming from consumers choosing more expensive, renewable plans, versus regulations that put a floor on the percentage of renewable power. I don’t know where you’d find that data.

    2) All the prices I quoted were for variable rate products. Today, on, with my home zip code (77030), the cheapest variable rate 100% renewable product is Bounce Energy at 9.3 cents/kWh versus five vendors offering introductory (i.e., not representative of what you’ll eventually pay) rates under 5.5 cents/kWh. We agree that the variable priced products seem to go out of their way to obfuscate what you’ll pay after the first month of service. I was sad to see that historical prices on the renewable products are largely unavailable online, making it hard to know what you’re really paying.

    3) Maybe you’re right, that the fixed price contracts are the way to go. According to, today, the cheapest prices seem to be from Kinetic Energy, at 8.2 and 9.2 cents/kWh for their respective dirty and clean plans. (Weirdness: Kinetic Energy’s variable / renewable rate is currently 9.5 cents/kWh versus 9.2 cents/kWh for the six-month plan — they let you lock in at a rate lower than their variable rate.) That’s still a 12% difference, which is, again, enough money that you have to legitimately ask the question of whether you could spend the same money on making your house more efficient.

    4) Long term, we all agree that it’s a good thing to get rid of dirty electrical plants, and it’s good that the consumer market can incentivize utilities to deploy more renewable products. Still, what I’d like to see in the immediate future are more incentives for people to consume less power. A friend in San Antonio redid the insulation in her attic and got a rebate from the local power company. In Houston, that isn’t happening, and if it was, it could have a much bigger impact in the next few years on carbon emissions than what people select as their electric provider. Likewise, Reliant offered me a variable time-of-day plan that made it cheaper to use off-peak electricity. That’s great, but the rates were higher than I’m paying all around, making it an unattractive offer.

    Basically, I’d love to see more use of windmills and solar. But what I’d really like to see is less power consumed. The current system seems to completely fail at creating the incentives for that to happen.

  2. Robert Nagle Avatar

    Dan, these are all excellent points. A few replies/afterthoughts:

    Conservation: One of the most interesting things I uncovered about the EIA data is that California, NY, etc are not just using “greener fuel” but they are using less of it overall. Again, it’s unclear how much of it is electricity bought by manufacturing companies vs. bought by residents. I suspect that in Texas there would be a significantly higher amount of electricity bought by petrochemicals and other manufacturing companies. I live mostly in apartments, so unfortunately I really don’t have the need or ability to make energy-saving investments in the dwellings. Apartment complexes have no incentive to do these kinds of upgrades very quickly.

    Variable vs. fixed rates. I’ve seen occasions where the fixed rates for renewables are cheaper than that of nonrenewables. In summer 2008, for example, variable and fixed rates for nonrenewables went off the chart. Unsurprisingly, rates for renewables and nonrenewables tend to mirror each other.

    Regulated floors for prices. I don’t really know the inner workings of the utilities market — although I do know that energy generated for RECs are not supposed to be energy which would have counted for the state’s portfolio standard. I suspect that federal tax credits have played a role in keeping the price of wind power low initially. What confuses me is why wind power plans in Houston aren’t more popular than the market would suggest that they should be.

    I want to mention again that 45 minute audio lecture by Robert F. Kennedy about the business of green power generation (mp3) Really an amazing lecture.

  3. Dan Wallach Avatar

    California has another benefit: a much milder climate. In many parts of the state, it’s completely normal for houses to be built without air conditioning. Just open your windows and you’re fine! Sadly, that’s not the case here.

    Rental living, in general, is a different world from home ownership. You can play games, like trying to get an apartment with a northern exposure, to minimize direct heat. You could put in more expensive lights and then take them out when you leave. Regardless, your A/C, your fridge, and so forth aren’t what you can get when you spend the big bucks. Of course, we could regulate better standards for new construction and incentivize landlords to improve things with scheduled retrofits, but that’s unlikely in the current Texas political climate.

  4. Gary Denton Avatar

    I really like most of this post but have to disagree with you about a little bit.
    Variable rates do not go up automatically as you seem to assume and nearly all the time will be lower then the fixed rate by the same company. You are paying a premium as insurance against unexpected rate increases. The premium varies by the length that the fixed rate is locked in. All variable rate plans are the same for everyone, they don’t have increases for longer term customers you seem to be implying, and the rates and terms must be posted.
    You are correct, the lowest rate plans have significant catches – for example with one company you save a bundle for a variable rate plan that is only for one month. If you have not changed plans at the end of the month you are enrolled in their highest cost plan. That can only be good if you remember in three weeks to enroll in another low cost plan which a friend of mine did and caught a huge price break during her hottest summer month.
    I recommend 100% wind power variable rate with a company that also has dollar cost averaging. The 12-month dollar cost averaging eliminate the one uncertainty about variable rates – a sudden price spike. Historically wind power is also not prone to the price spikes common with other power sources. My rate is about 40% less than my friends and relatives who have locked-in non wind power rates. They have asked me to help them switch when their plans expire. If something unexpected comes up, fires destroy transmission lines to wind farms or the farms themselves(?), it is a variable plan and another huge benefit of variable rates come into play – there are zero costs to get another plan. All the fixed plans have costs of $100 and often more to switch.
    My biggest problem with the government web site to compare plans is no one disclose their exact mechanism of setting their rates if they are variable and their is no long term historical list of the prices each plan has been charging, fixed or variable. There is also little info on promotions that may be connected with the plans, for example TXU which is terrible, does have bonuses of up to $150 for signing up and cash back awards when your fixed plan ends.
    The last thing is I have never NOT been told numerous times when a fixed plan is about to end and given the opportunity to lock in their “fixed, low, peace of mind rates” which my flex 100% wind with the company’s balanced billing undercuts by 40%.

  5. jseliger Avatar

    Did you see James Fallows’ post on the Carbon Wedge?I ask because this seems like a good place to mention it and because the more one reads about environmental issues around climate change, the worse things appear.

  6. Robert Nagle Avatar

    Jake, Yes, I saw the Fallows writeup. I read a lot of climate change science (as a layman, mind you), and the disconnect between the nightmare scenarios and the indifference of both politicians and ordinary citizens is jarring.

    Gary, I appreciate your counterexample, but I have had 2 cases where I’ve been burned by variable rates… Not so much by the fluctuations as the fact that the company made increases at times when I would have never expected it. (I would normally expect rates to go up in early summer, for example). Variable rates require lots of monitoring, plus lots of time — changing plans is not easy and requires making new deposits. It sounds as though variable rates would be cheaper in the long run (especially if you choose renewable), but in practice, I haven’t found this to be true.

  7. Ruth Avatar

    To your point on term contract expiration: providers are now required to list your contract end date on your bill. So that should be easy to check.

  8. Robert Nagle Avatar

    Ruth, I’m afraid it’s a little more complicated than that. It’s that companies generally don’t remind you when your plan finishes, so your rate defaults to some other rate. Probably the best solution is to set up a reminder system, either through Google Calendar or some email reminder service.

    Gary, your experience may differ, but in my experience, I have not found that keeping the variable rate is significantly better — especially because it’s impractical to change plans every 2 or 3 months. The last power company Tera required that I leave a $300 deposit! (they had the best rates though).

  9. Gary D Avatar

    Reliant has done an increase when I least expected it but I’m not burned. It just makes my plan with 100% wind only about 5% better than fixed rate instead of the close to 40% I was getting. Looking around I see they and some others have dropped the flex rates for new customers. Maybe all the screams from customers this summer had something to do with it. It is still slightly better than any other plan they offer me right now but I hate paying an average price of 13.1 this month (factoring in the $5 fee and transmission surcharge when I had never even hit 10.0 until last month.

    Need a new plan that combine 100% renewable and average billing.

  10. Gary D Avatar

    Here is their new data card – pathetic compared to the old rate.

  11. Jinger Lloyd Avatar
    Jinger Lloyd

    I needed this info. Am struggling to understand how to find the best electric plan. But then, instead of staying on track with an electric discussion, you have to turn it into a political rant. California is bankrupt. BANKRUPT. You really want to compare us to them? And then you want to make this an issue of morality? Argh. I need an electric plan, not your moral superiority. Probably more like a troll living under a bridge.

  12. GH Avatar

    Came to this website to find out how to get the lowest price possible for my electricity and all I get is a bunch of BS about renewable energy and how it costs ONLY just a little bit more than the other type of electricity. Thanks for wasting my time.

  13. Robert Nagle Avatar

    Jinger and GH, thank you for insisting that my blog post is defective for not recommending a cheap & dirty plan. Attitudes like that are contributing to the problem.

  14. Paul Hart Avatar
    Paul Hart

    Interesting article, but I agree there are a few unqualified assumptions on rate changes.

    However to my point of writing in. Why not cover which REPs have a buy back program for those of us why generate excess electricity most months.

    If you want to save the planet, that would be more useful to those of us who really put our money toward green energy production.

    Just my two cents.

  15. JohnnyRebel Avatar

    The improperly recommended web-site given as a source for evaluating Texas electricity plans was “” Unfortunately, this site doe not give more than one single page of REP’s with 30 or 40 different plans to choose among.

    The correct source for electricity choices is “” This web-site does in fact follow exactly the “user interface” the author cut and pasted into this article. I assume the author made an honest mistake and had the best of intentions because his “quoted electricity pricing references” fit the same exact format used at the “” site” and DO NOT FIT the “” format.

    The site loads as many as nineteen pages of choices (depending on your residential zip code) with over 200 different electricity plans to evaluate.

  16. Suzanne Sherrill Avatar
    Suzanne Sherrill

    Want to know why Texas uses so much electricity? Customers are not incentivized for using less electricity. In fact, on lots of plans if they use under 1000 kWh, they are penalized with an additional fee. No wonder customers aren’t encouraged to manage how or how much electricity they use. Until someone forces the companies to not penalize customers for low usage, things will stay the same green energy or not.

  17. compare electric houston Avatar

    I enjoyed your article.I would encourage the author of the article.I add up few points
    a) The average annual electricity cost per Texas of household is around $1,801.
    b) Deregulation of the Texas electricity market has made a huge influence on REPs and their individual consumers. As 2002, approx. 85 percent of commercial clients have switched REPs at least once. Furthermore, around 40 percent of residential customers have switched to REPs that vacant more competitive rates.
    c) For less electricity Bill, we should use lighting only for specific areas. For ceiling fans, turn them off when nobody’s in the room and be sure to set the toggle switch.
    d) I personally read and search many competitors in Texas which give best electricity plan for commercial and residential usage. I want to share one website where I read and get good results about Electricity comparison. There are contract free plans in all ranges started to month to month and so on and you can quote according your desire.
    compare electricity rates Houston

  18. The Astonishing Fartman Avatar

    The numbers you cite regarding the Texas carbon footprint don’t really tell the whole story. The main reason Texas electricity carbon footprint is so huge is simply because Texas consumes a lot more energy. (Texas is the number one energy consumer among the states, “accounting for more than one-eighth of the U.S. total”.)

    And the reason Texas consumes a lot more energy is NOT because Texans are a buncha sloppy energy hogs, but because more heavy energy-consumption industries are located here in Texas. “The state has many energy-intensive industries, including petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing,” and “leads the nation in total energy production, primarily crude oil and natural gas.”

    In other words, the reason Texas has a big carbon footprint is because Texas does a lot of the “dirty work” for people living in other states who are happy and content to consume the petroleum and chemical products that are produced here in Texas. Instead of looking down their noses at Texas, people in other states should thank us for taking on the burden of producing these products that the rest of the nation consumes. (There’s nothing more ironic than tourists turning their noses up at the refineries as they drive their SUVs down to Galveston.)

    Similarly, Texas produces more than twice as much electricity as California. Not only is Texas the biggest energy consumer, Texas is also the number one producer of electricity. The important fact about energy consumption is not just how much energy you consume, but also how much energy you produce, and especially how much you produce with the energy you consume. Texas consumes a lot of energy, but Texas uses that energy to produce products that the rest of the country (including California!) could not live without. Texas leads the nation in natural gas production, which electricity producers in other states are then able to use produce clean energy. Texas’ production of natural gas has allowed electricity producers throughout the country to transition from dirtier coal to cleaner natural gas. If it wasn’t for Texas natural gas production, Californians would be able to afford to burn clean gas for their electricity generation. I know the temptation to bash Texas is almost irresistible. But I would suggest that your readers “look behind the numbers” to understand the real story. The EIA website is a good place to start.

  19. Scott Hundley Avatar

    I agree, it has become too complicated for the average Joe to find the best electricity plan on Power To Choose. Energy Choice Experts is the answer for anyone that wants to sign up the lowest cost plan, but doesn’t want to review hundreds of offers and crunch all the numbers. They have already deciphered all of the annual plans from Power To Choose so customer don’t have to. They take a customer’s historical usage to calculate the plan that will give that customer the Lowest Annual Cost. They provide their customers with both the lowest cost annual plan and the lowest cost annual plan comes from 100% renewable energy. Energy Choice Experts takes all of the hassle and confusion out of choosing an electricity provider and recommends to their customers the plans that mathematically will cost them the least for the next 12 months.

  20. Fred Anders Avatar

    It’s been several years since this article and still doesn’t support searching based on a customer’s _range_ of usage, which is key to finding the cheapest plan among a minefield of expensive teaser rates. For do-it-yourself shoppers who just want easy, transparent access to electric plan data and calculations (without having to trade their own personal information), here’s a new, better option:

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