The complaints filed against providers aren't a perfect mirror of the J.D. Power customer satisfactions scores. Just Energy, which earned only two J.D. Power Circles and earned the second-lowest score, had only 21 complaints recorded with the Public Utility Commission. But it's helpful to view these complaints in aggregate: Over 50 percent of the 1,119 total complaints fall under "billing" — another reason to seek out a provider with high customer satisfaction in that area in particular.
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.
Electric bills for customers in the Houston area can more than double in summer months, mainly because air conditioning. Not coincidentally, electric rates also rise in the summer months because of this increase in demand. The most dramatic rate increases occur in month-to-month plans, but electric rates do increase across the board for all fixed-rate contract lengths.
Likewise, if you opt for a plan like our StarTex Power example, but in some months only hit 990 kWh of energy use, the $35 discount for cresting $1,000 kWh won't apply — and your bill is going to show it. Picking the right plan for you requires two things: an intimate knowledge of your home’s typical energy use, and a critical eye on any plan’s fine print.
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.
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.
Fixed-rate plans: Fixed-rate plans give customers more stability for their monthly energy bills because the rate a customer signs up with is the rate he or she pays for the length of the plan’s contract. Most fluctuation comes with usage, though transmission and delivery charges and local fees also can change.. Because a fixed-rate plan sometimes spans two-three years, these plans often require a customer credit check and can include early cancellation fees. Fixed-rate plans, because of the continuing market volatility, probably are the best choice for many consumers.
In Texas' deregulated energy market, customers must pick their own electricity provider, all of which offer different rates per hour of power usage. You can shop for other power plans on the state-run website, www.powertochoose.org, or try an alternative website, like www.texaspowerguide.com to help find the cheapest plan. Keep in mind that many retail electricity contracts carry penalties for early termination.
Fixed-rate, long-term (contract) plans provide stability in electricity rates. If market energy costs suddenly trend upward where you live, you can rest assured that you won’t have to pay more out of pocket. However, if you want to switch to a different, lower-cost plan before the end of the contract term, you’ll likely have to pay a cancellation or early termination fee.