Minimum Usage Fees: Often set at or around 1,000 kWh/month, these fees mean you’ll always pay for at least that amount — even if you only use, say, 800 kWh of electricity some months. It sounds nasty, but it’s only something to be concerned about if your electricity bills historically show you hover right around that minimum use threshold. If you’re electricity use always exceeds that amount, it’s like it’s not even there.
Since 2002, Amigo Energy has been one of the best electric companies in Texas. Not only that, but more recently we’ve received far fewer Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC) complaints than most other large residential electricity providers across the state.2 In fact, our customer service gets even better over the phone because our call-in customers have yet to file a PUC complaint this year.3 This ain’t our first rodeo—with over 15 years of experience and a track record of reliable service, you can trust Amigo Energy as your retail electricity provider.
As they’re advertised, the Digital Discount plan appears to save you $4 — but only if you use 32 percent of your energy on the weekends, which is the stat Reliant used to create the average price it advertises. Say you often travel for business during the week, and are only home cranking the air conditioner on weekends. If your energy use skews to 55 percent weekend use (for Reliant, that means 8 pm on Friday through 12 am Monday), suddenly Truly Free Weekends becomes a much better deal.
But they are not pessimistic about the sector. “The good news is that renewable energy has – at least on a levelized cost of electricity, or LCOE, basis – clearly achieved the long-awaited goal of grid competitiveness,” they say. Both onshore wind and solar projects have won auctions, in Morocco and Chile respectively, with bids of $30/MWh or less in the last 12 months. “These must be the lowest electricity prices, for any new project, of any technology, anywhere in the world, ever. And we are still going to see further falls in equipment prices,” they assert.
Direct Energy is one of North America’s largest energy and energy-related services providers with nearly 5 million residential and commercial customer relationships. Direct Energy provides customers with choice and support in managing their energy costs through a portfolio of innovative products and services. A subsidiary of Centrica plc (LSE:CNA), one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, Direct Energy operates in 46 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and 10 provinces in Canada.
Fixed-Rate Plans: These plans are steady and predictable; the price per kWh you sign up for will remain that same for the entirety of your contract. (The only changes in your bill will be from forces outside of your REP's control, like changes in TDU fees, or changes in federal, state, or local laws.) Often fixed-rate plans will have a slightly higher price per kWh than others, but you're paying for the predictability. They're great if you live by your budget – and even greater if you happen to sign up when rates are low. The fixed-rate plans of our five Texas providers typically started at 12 months, with some extending up to three years, but we spotted a couple from Reliant that offered fixed rates for six month contracts as well.
That means that customers in Houston paid an average of $5,500 more for electricity over a 14-year time span beginning in 2002, according to the group that buys electricity on behalf of municipal governments in Texas. The calculation, which uses data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, assumes monthly electricity use of 1,300 kilowatt hours.
In summary, fixed-rate plans provide a level of certainty and stability in your energy charge since the price will not fluctuate over the life of your contract. If prices suddenly spike, you are protected because your rate is locked in. The flip side is that if rates drop over the life of your contract, you’ll be stuck paying the higher rate. You can incur steep cancellation fees if you change electricity plans or providers before the end of your contract term.
Another unwelcome side effect of not knowing your average monthly kWh usage level is that you may end up paying more than you expect. This can occur when a customer inadvertently shops an electric rate based on a higher usage level than they actually use. Electricity suppliers commonly advertise their electric rates associated with the highest (2000 kWh) usage levels since those tend to be the lowest rates.
Last year the duo said that sales would break the 500,000 milestone but significantly underestimated the market’s growth, so “at the start of 2017, Angus and I are going to throw prudence to the winds, run our hands through our grey sea-captain hair, and bet it breaks the million mark”, helped by higher oil prices, a flood of new, improved models on the market, ongoing falls in battery prices and improved charging infrastructure. The aforementioned need to improve air quality and the continued fallout from the Dieselgate scandal will play a part, too.
It is often the case that the cheapest option available to you will be supplied by an energy company that you have not heard of. Do not let this put you off saving money on your gas and electricity bills. Small energy companies provide the same energy as the other, more expensive, ones but often for a much more competitive price. You don’t need to be concerned about these companies failing to be able to supply you with energy.
Some good news: According to J.D. Power’s 2016 survey on retail electric providers (its most current survey of the space), Texas has the highest overall satisfaction with retail electric providers out of any state. And because rates, plans, and offers can be so similar from provider to provider, customer satisfaction scores are a great way to break a tie. Think of it like choosing who to hire when you have two candidates with similar resumes — you’re going to pick the person with the glowing references.
There are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business on any given day in Texas. Many of these electric companies have websites that are confusing and nearly impossible to navigate, their rates and fees hidden by dense industry jargon and misleading advertising. Who has the spare the time to sort through the choices spread out over all these different sites and companies?