And just like with any plan, it’s worth it to do the math to see how different scenarios will affect your bill. Take, for example, a home in Sweetwater that uses about 1,000 kWh of energy per month, and is interested in the Texas Essentials 12 plan. Zero percent renewable energy is the cheapest option — but by committing to a $5 monthly charge for its 100 percent “JustGreen” option, it’s actually cheaper than the 60 percent hybrid renewable option.
For example, shoppers for Texas electricity plans in the 77494 ZIP code in Katy, TX, could find 12-month plans for 6.8 cents/kWh in February; by June, electricity rates had increased 27 percent to 9.3 cents/kWh. As of early September, 12-month plans were up again, to 9.9 cents/kWh – a 6.5 percent hike from June and a 46 percent increase just since February.
For example, if you use a small amount of energy each month, you expect to be rewarded — right? Unfortunately, nearly all electricity plans from Texas REPs are advertised as costing more per kWh the less electricity you use. It’s a little like buying in bulk: Providers often discount your bill when you cross certain kWh thresholds. For instance, one 12-month plan from StarTex Power quotes 8.1 cents per kWh for 1,000 kWh a month and 8.8 cents for 2,000 kWh per month, but 12.1 cents for 500 kWh per month. Why the difference? Customers get $35 back each month if they pass 1,000 kWh of use, and another $15 back per month if they cross 2,000 kWh. In this case, using half as much electricity as your neighbor on the same plan wouldn’t get you half the bill.
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Then, in 2002, Texas deregulated the electricity market and everybody cheered! Except that, sure, deregulation opened up the market to competition that may (or may not) have resulted in lower rates, but it introduced a whole host of other issues. These issues may not have been factors before but now they’re critical when you’re on the look-out for cheap Houston electricity providers.
Consumers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi were promised bargains on electricity when the Texas Legislature deregulated the electricity market. But 16 years later they're still paying more for electricity than their counterparts in cities Texas lawmakers exempted from deregulation such as Austin and San Antonio, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power which analyzed federal electricity pricing data.
Price, of course. Prices are expressed in cents/kilowatt hour. Plan types include fixed rates and variable rates. Fixed rates offer consistency throughout the plan term, which can run from six to 36 months. Variable rates can change monthly - they're great when prices go down, but not-so-great when they don't. Finally, if you care about your carbon footprint, you may choose a plan sourced by solar or wind energy.
The increasing digitalisation of the energy and transportation will lead to an increased focus on making devices and networks more secure and more resilient. “From Vermont to Ukraine, the suspicion is that Russian hackers are on manoeuvres and that utilities are in their sights,” Liebreich says. “The clean energy sector must think carefully about how to protect itself, but also how to contribute to grid stability, particularly through power storage and ancillary services. The reality is that we are entering an era when a catastrophic failure could potentially cascade through the energy, communications, transport, financial and industrial systems, in a way that has never been seen before. It is vital that the world invests time, brains and money now to ensure it never happens.
However, the energy storage sector will continue its strong showing from 2016, with commissioned capacity set to exceed 1GW for the first time, Liebreich and McCrone say. “We predict a doubling of new capacity from this year’s 700MW to 1.5GW, almost all of it lithium-ion batteries. We are going to see a further reduction in battery prices of at least 15% this year, after a 70% reduction in the past five years.”