Critical Peak Rebate Programs. What Are They?

Critical Peak Rebate programs are likely to become a new hot trend in the world of Texas electricity. ┬áSo what are critical peak rebate programs, and what do they mean to you? Lets take a look. Continue reading “Critical Peak Rebate Programs. What Are They?” »

Money Saving Program for Houston Electricity and Dallas Electricity Customers

The always informative Energy Choice Matters had an interesting article about a possible program for consumers in the Centerpoint and Oncor footprints to save money. Simple Energy (not to be mistaken with the recently purchased Simple Power), is a company that is trying to offer potential rewards for customers to save energy.

The only catch is that customers have to have provisioned Smart Meters.

Any customer with electricity in Houston or electricity in Dallas and a Facebook account can visit the Simple Energy web platform, enroll in with their Facebook username, and get started.

I don’t have a Smart meter, so I didn’t enroll, and as a result I can’t give you any more information about the application process. However, according to press release, customers can compete with friends and family members to see who can save the most electricity, making the process a potentially fun and competitive game. The potential rewards for customers include things like iTunes gift cards and iPads. It is a pretty interesting concept to promote green energy behavior.

Also, at least for the time being, it appears this program is truly philanthropic:

Simple Energy told Matters that it is not working with a REP or TDU in offering the program in Texas at this time. Nor is it monetizing the efficiency in any way.

The Texas offering is about product development, and testing and demonstrating the program’s potential, said Yoav Lurie, Founder and CEO of Simple Energy.

Might be something TER readers and fans of our Facebook page might want to check out.

Power To Choose 2.0 to Hopefully Simplify Texas Electricity

It looks like a new and improved Power To Choose (www.powertochoose.org) has finally been released, and hopefully the changes will help to remove some confusion from the deregulated Texas Electricity market. As I have written before, promotional electricity rates have been a huge source of confusion and angst for Texas consumers for years.

To explain, in brief, the problem is that customers shopping for Texas electricity don’t understand the market very well and are often oblivious to the difference between Fixed Rate Plans or Variable and Indexed plans, much less the nuance of a Variable Plan with a Promotional Rate. Basically, people (particularly ones from other states or regulated areas) pick the first plan they see, with the lowest price. In all fairness, this is a pretty standard shopping strategy used by loads of people whether they’re shopping for electricity or non-perishable foodstuffs. But in Texas it can get people into trouble.

The most common complaint I get at Texas Electricity Ratings is customers complaining about their variable rates increasing exponentially after their first bill. They feel cheated (somewhat understandably) even though it’s written right there in the fine print. Fortunately, the new changes to the Power To Choose website should help remove some of that confusion and rank anger.

PTC 2 Top Bar

The picture above is the new header section of Power To Choose. The specific additions are the new red tabs at the top, labelled All, Fixed, Variable, Indexed, Promotional Offers and Prepaid. The new tabs should allow for much easier navigation and reduced confusion for the types of plans for which customers are shopping. But the big tab is the Promotional Offers Tab.

My understanding is that all variable electricity plans which are advertised at the promotional rate (the promotional/introductory price that typically lasts only 1 or 2 billing cycles) will have to be placed under this tab. The plans that exist under the variable or indexed tabs will have to be listed at the current price of the plan by the REP when it isn’t priced at the introductory rate, or potentially some kind of average or historical rate. The important part is that all of the plans under the Variable Tab will be listed at a rate that is MUCH closer to the one a customer will be paying when their promotional term expires. They won’t (hopefully) be blindsided by a rate that doubles after their first bill. And the very act of having to click over to a Promotional Offer tab should, by the act itself, be informing shoppers that the plans listed there are special or non-standard in some fashion.

To help clarify plans that are promotional/introductory rates, there is also a new link that when hovered over with a mouse, expounds on the promotional plan:

PTC 2 - Mouseover

That should go a long way in helping people understand what to expect when their promotional rate expires. Of course, right now, the plans aren’t properly organized and the rates aren’t correct in regards to promotional rates versus estimated regular rate. In fact, right now the only plans listed under the Promotional offers table seem to be pre-paid plans. So clearly there are some growing pains, but this is a net positive.

I believe this is one of the best things that the PUC has done in years in terms of helping reduce confusion in the deregulated electricity market. I honestly think this will have a tangible effect on people no longer getting burned by promotional rates for variable plans. After speaking with the PUC, the deadline for REPs getting their plans correctly input on PowerToChoose is this Friday. I’m sure some electricity providers will drag their feet or make some mistakes, but I imagine those will all get straightened out quickly. All in all, this is great news for consumers.

 

Bounce Energy Beat the Heat Promotion: 8/26

Bounce Energy is offering a one day only promotion for today, Thursday August 26th, known as their Beat The Heat plan. Anyone who signs up today only for their Easy Fixed 3 plan will get 3 months of electricity at cheaper than usual fixed rates. For the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been championing the possibility of month to month plans or small term fixed rate plans because they will get the customers through the last of the Texas summer heat and then shoppers can reevaluate longer term plans at winter prices, which are historically the lowest of the year. Bounce’s promotion, depending on which region of Texas you live, is approximately a half a cent reduction on the standard rates for their Easy Fixed 3 plan. That’s a good savings. Here’s the pricing breakdown below:

Oncor: 8.7
Centerpoint: 9.4
AEP Central: 10.1
AEP North: 8.8
TNMP: 8.8

Bounce Energy Offers Cinco De Mayo Promotion

In honor of Cinco De Mayo, Bounce Energy is offering a special promotion for one day only. The special promotion is for their Thrifty Saver Introductory Plan, which if ordered today will cost only 5.5 cents per kWh for the first month of service. Depending on where you are in Texas, that price is almost half off the cost of electricity for the first month.

Since this blog spends a lot of time putting together the shopping guides every week for customers to be as informed as possible when they search the market for new electricity providers and plans, I wanted to be sure to mention this one day only promotion so customers shopping for electricity today can sign up for this plan if they’re interested. Because it’s almost half off the first billing cycle, that could very well end up being nearly half off your June electricity bill. For everyone, particularly people with homes, this could be a very big discount right in the middle of the summer heat, when people need it most.

Here’s a look at the Bounce Press Release for more information about the promotion along with some information about Bounce Energy.

Texas Electricity Ratings Update: New Rankings Released

Hello Everyone. I just wanted to submit a quick writeup on what’s going on at Texas Electricity Ratings. Over the weekend, I updated the rankings of the different providers operating in the deregulated electricity markets of Texas. And the result is that we have a new provider on top of the ratings: Bounce Energy.

Bounce moved to the top of the list based on a strong set of promotions over the course of the last 3 months, as well as keeping their prices low and competitive with the bottom of the market, all while still offering the most robust suite of different customer incentives and reward programs. In March and April, Bounce offered an Earth Day promotion that gave customers 100% renewable green electricity at standard electricity rates. In February, they donated $5 to the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti for every single new customer that enrolled with them. That’s some very unique and interesting promotions that help customers and charitable efforts, which is a big thumbs up in our book. All of this combined with their ability to keep prices competitive with other providers, offering a full suite of different plans for customers while continuing to get positive reviews submitted through our website helped Bounce slide into the top spot.

Rounding out the top 5 for this cycle was Champions Energy, StarTex power, Kinetic Energy and TXU Energy.

Green Energy Link Roundup

So, there’s always a lot of stuff at foot in regards to Texas electricity and the green market. Keep in mind, most of these links aren’t really anything that relates directly to the customer in terms of their monthly electricity bills, just kind of a link dump of some of the green energy articles and topics I’ve seen browsing the internet recently.

Wind Surpasses Oil in Texas – I wanted to put a question mark at the end of this link to express my own opinion on the subject. However, this article deals with how big wind energy is becoming in the state of Texas, and how it’s creating jobs. Farmers can get money for allowing wind farms to be set up on their land and then still use most of the land for crops. It doesn’t really compare wind to oil, only implying that in the future wind electricity in Texas might be more important to the economy of Texas than oil.

Texas Writing the Book on Wind Power – Here’s another article on Wind energy in Texas. It discuses some numbers on wind energy in Texas, including what it means in terms of generation and money, as well as mentioning how other states are yet again looking towards Texas as a model for wind electricity moving forward. It also points out some interesting things, such that the Texas electricity grid might actually not be able to handle all of the available wind energy potential that exists without massive upgrades, as well as the fact that it’s still dependent upon fickle weather. It’s a great article, definitely worth a read.

Green Cleaning Tips – Our friends over at Bounce Energy have put together a tips sheet for some things people can do to “clean greaner” (my quote, not theirs). Basically, it’s a list of household items that are environmentally friendly you can use to clean, and probably save money on expensive cleaning products at the same time. They also have some Cool Earth Day Promotions on Electricity listed in the previous link.

Reliant Buys Green Energy Credits – Reliant is also getting in on the Earth Day green electricity bandwagon by announcing that they’re buying wind energy for all of their residential and small business customers in honor of Earth Day. Promotion for Earth Day only.

San Antonio Solar Power Plant Ground Breaks – Even though it doesn’t effect anything other than the customers of CPS energy San Antonio, and as a result not the customers in deregulated electricity areas of Texas, I figured it was worth noting that they have broken ground on the largest solar farm in the state of Texas.

Market Prices 3/15 – Month to Month

Ok, it’s Monday, so that means we’ll take a look at the Month to Month plans (variable and indexed) and what some of the lowest and highest rates we’re seeing in the Texas deregulated electricity market. I wrote up an earlier article today on Promotional Rates that I think everyone should give a read before they read this post and start their shopping. Lets jump in:

Lowest Month to Month*:

  • Dynowatt – 7.8
  • Simple Power – 8.3
  • StarTex Power – 8.3
  • MX Energy – 8.5
  • Highest Month to Month

  • Reliant Energy 13.7
  • Green Mountain Energy – 14.4
  • First Choice Power – 14.6
  • Gexa Energy 16.2
  • *Some of the rates listed could be promotional rates. Check the electricity facts label to determine if your electricity rate might increase suddenly after an introductory period.

    Understand Promotional Rates

    It’s Monday, so that means it’s time for us to take a look at the market prices for Month To Month plans and what the market is shaping up this week for shoppers. But first, I got an email from someone last week who was angry and asking me some questions about her electricity rate increasing, and since it’s probably the most common theme I see on the website, I’m going to address some of that email here. It deals with Month to Month plans specifically, so this is also a good fit.

    Someone sent me an email upset that their rate had gone up substantially a month or two after they had signed up with a new provider. They signed up for a rate around 9 cents per kWh, and their new bill was charging them at 11.5 cents per kWh. This person understood that with a month to month plan, their kWh was going to change, but they didn’t expect this kind of jump, and they were particularly upset when they logged back onto the internet and saw that the same company was actually offering CHEAPER month to month rates currently than the one they had signed up for a couple months ago. So what’s the explanation?

    In short, many of the Month to Month rates that people see in, both on my website, as well as any other website (such as Power To Choose) are Promotional Rates. They only last a month, maybe two months, maybe three. And then at that point, customers will be switched to a higher month to month rate. Basically, it’s a discount on your first X number of months of electricity. So what can you do about it? Not much, other than continue to educate yourself and try to understand the ins and outs of the Texas electricity market. An electricity provider is required to inform a customer if their rate is promotional, and for how long, in their Electricity Facts label for the particular plan that they are interested in purchasing. Basically, it amounts to reading the fine print. Take 5 minutes to look over the electricity facts label and see if the rate is a promotional rate or not. Not every REP uses promotional rates. But at the same time, not every low rate you see is going to be permanent.

    This post ended up running a bit longer than I expected, so I’ll update the market prices in another post here in a few minutes.

    Latest Texas Electricity Ratings

    I’ve re-run the numbers and published the latest rankings at Texas Electricity Ratings and we have a new number one. Congratulations to Green Mountain Energy!

    Taking into account the entire Texas deregulated electricity marketplace, here’s a quick look at the new Top 5:

    1.) Green Mountain Energy
    2.) Champion Energy
    3.) Bounce Energy
    4.) TXU Energy
    5.) StarTex Power

    Green Mountain energy had lots of positive reviews, including a high ranking in the most recently published JD Power survey, as well as some very cool recent promotions, including a chance for customers to win an environmentally friendly car. Champion Energy moved up with some good reviews and competitive pricing. Bounce Energy and TXU both maintained their positions in the top 5, and StarTex Power continued to show strong in the Texas marketplace, particularly in finishing first in the most recent JD Power survey.

    I’ll take some time go over these results in more detail throughout the week, and go into some of the different things that we’re seeing in regards to pricing and different plans in the marketplace.

    For a list of the top 10 in the new rankings, they’re available on the front page of the website at www.TexasElectricityRatings.com