Reliant’s e-Sense Cash Back Nights & Weekends: Another Flawed Plan

Awhile back, I wrote a very critical piece focusing on Reliant’s Cap and Save Plan. My issues with the plan were that while it was advertised as a flexible plan that would rise and fall with the market rates, the reality is that due to their math it ensured that the plan would never be sold at a fair market rate, even if the cost of natural gas were free. I felt like this was a pretty shady thing to do, so I wrote about it and tried to educated Texans about the hazards and lack of upside with choosing this plan.

So why am I bringing this up now? Well, that’s because Reliant is back at it again with another plan that, well, I find questionable. This time the plan in question that has me scratching my head is the Reliant e-Sense Cash Back Nights and Weekends. Naturally, Reliant is pushing this plan with a huge barrage of television and radio commercials, talking about the great savings opportunity that will be presented to customers. And the vehicle for these potential savings is recycled from some cell phone plans from the early part of the decade: Savings for Nights and Weekends.

Unlike the cell plans, it’s not free electricity for nights and weekends, just discounted. So lets take a look at the discount, exactly. Looking at the Electricity Facts Label, it looks like the plan starts with a basic electricity rate of 12.9 cents per kWh. Then, for every kWh per hour used between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., customers are refunded one cent of their final electricity bill. Ok, so there’s going to be some cash back here. In fact, lets just make this easy by once again pasting their formula:

Price per kWh =((Monthly Billed kWh Usage x Energy Charge per kWh) + (Cash Back Discount Usage x
Cash Back Discount per kWh) / Monthly Billed kWh Usage

So lets run through the math here, just like we did last time with the Cap and Save plan. Lets say that a customer uses 1,000 kW of electricity in a month, at 12.9 cents. You do the math on the first half of that equation, and it comes to $129 dollars for the energy charge. On the second half of that equation, lets say that 1 half of their electricity usage from the month happened during the night and weekend cash back window, so 500 kWh. That math comes out $5. When you add it all together, you’re talking about an entire bill of $124 for the energy charge. Reliant estimates that the average kWh using this play would be 12.3 cents, indicating that a household on this plan should be using 60% of their electricity during the discount window. That’s pretty ambitious.

So how does that stack up to other plans? Well, lets take a look around the marketplace at 12 month fixed plans. If you substitute Tara Energy’s plan, the total bill would be $95, beating Reliant’s plan by $29. Amigo Energy checks in at a total bill of $96. Gexa Energy would be $99. StarTex Power would be $99. Direct Energy would be $99. Spark Energy would be $99. Dynowatt would be $100. Bounce Energy would be $102. Champion Energy would be $103. Are we starting to see a pattern here? Every single one of these 12 month plans are substantially cheaper than Reliant’s e-Sense Cash Back Nights and Weekends Plan, even AFTER the discount is applied. And here’s two more pieces of information that will blow your mind. At least, they blow mine. 1.) Even if 100% of a customer’s electricity was used during the discount windows, the energy charge would still be $119. That’s still more than $15 more expensive than the highest bill I listed above. 2.) Reliant Energy ALSO offers a regular 12 month electricity plan, with a, wait for it, rate of 9.8 kWh. That means they already have a plan where a customer would have a bill with an energy charge of $98. So they can afford to offer the electricity cheaper. They just also have this much much higher plan, which they spend millions marketing in media advertisements to customers, in hopes of getting a premium. I will say this, the plan SOUNDS like a good idea. But it’s just a gimmick.

To break this down further, there are 71 electricity plans in the Centerpoint footprint that require a 12 month contract. 67 of those plans would be less expensive than an average of 12.3 cents per kWh for the Nights & Weekends plan Reliant claims will be your average kWh. None would be more expensive than the 12.9 cents per kWh that is the base energy charge with no discounts. Also, all of the other plans this expensive are 100% green energy electricity plans, which are typically more expensive. Even if the “discounted” electricity rate was in force 24 hours a day, instead of just a 12 hour nighttime savings window and weekends, at 11.9 cents per kWh, the Nights & Weekends plans would still be more expensive than all but 4 electricity plans available in Houston and the surrounding areas.

So I ask: Where exactly is the discount here? Even in the best case scenario, this plan isn’t even anywhere close to a competitive market price. In fact, it’s the opposite, it’s at the highest end of the pricing spectrum. The lowest rates on the market at the time this article was written were 8.8 cents per kWh 12 month fixed rate plans. At 2.1 cents difference between the two, that’s just under 25% of a premium to pay for the “discounted” plan. And lets not forget that to earn that “discount” people have to work to ensure they’re using a bulk of their electricity late at night or weekends. So you’re reward for having to deal with the hassle of scheduling things like laundry, washing dishes, and surfing on the internet at odd hours is that you receive a “discount” that is really almost 25% higher than the lowest rates on the market. That seems, well, the opposite of smart. And the opposite of fair. Especially since Reliant offers a 12 month plan at a competitive market rate.

Reliant will almost certainly say that they’re offering this plan for the same reason that they offered the Cap And Save plan: They’re responding to feedback from certain groups and people who say they are interested in a plan like the e-Sense Cash Back Nights and Weekends Plan. Ok, maybe some groups are interested in a plan that gives them discounted electricity during certain hours of the day. But I do not believe that any group wants an electricity plan that under no circumstances or during any period will be exceptionally more expensive than any of the other comparable plans on the marketplace. In my opinion, at the very best plan represents an interesting concept that is absolutely lacking on proper execution. Because if cheaper options exist, even from Reliant themselves, then why offer this plan at all?

So what do you guys think about this new plan from Reliant Energy? Does it seem fair to you?

24 thoughts on “Reliant’s e-Sense Cash Back Nights & Weekends: Another Flawed Plan

  1. Doesn’t seem fair and it is stunts like this that confirm that Reliant is NOT the place to buy your electricity from.

    • this dude is all the way wrong he doesnt know what he talking about. the plan starts at 11.4 and on nights and weekends it drop to a 10.4. that gives it an average of 10.8 flat. the 10.8 will not rise no mater how much energy you use unlike other companys that charge you more for less energy you use. then on top of the savings the reliant plan takes all centerpoint chargers off, tdu delevery and any other fees other companys charge off. so when you get your bill the only charges you have is the enerygy you use ponit blank. so dude get the facts befor you post next time.

      • Kid,

        Funny that you’re posting through a proxy server.

        Additionally, you do realize you’re commenting on an article that was literally written a year ago, right? Things change in that time period, including the rates on Reliant’s plans, such as this one. And you also realize (since I think there’s an excellent chance that you’re a Reliant Employee) that the 10.8 number that Reliant is advertising on their EFL is reached as an ESTIMATION of a customer’s usage, based on the assumption they will be using 61% of their electricity during the discount period. If they use less than that, their rate will be higher. So that alone makes your claim that their rate will never be more than 10.8 absolutely hilarious.

        Additionally, if Reliant IS paying for the recurring TDU charges (I don’t see it mentioned in their EFL or Terms of Service), they still reserve the right to change that policy at any time even if a customer signs a contract. They do reserve THAT right specifically in their Terms of Service.

        And finally, despite the fact that this article is a year old, some things DON’T change. Even if, and that is a BIG if, a customer does get the 10.8 rate for their service, there are literally FIFTY-FOUR (54) 12 month fixed rate plans with lower rates than 10.8 cents per kWh for 12 months. The lowest ones start at 9.1. So please tell me where I got my facts wrong, and please tell me where you think more than half a dozen plans with energy charges more than 1.5 cents per kWh cheaper than Reliant are a bad deal.

        I’ll await your answer.

        • Dude why is it that everytime reliant come out with a plan that is successful you have to be a complete and total HATER? You are so focused on what reliant is doing stick to what YOU’RE dowing. Reliants esense has the only fixed averge on this plan no mater how much we use. Dude go do something with yourself. If you cant beat the plan you just cant beat the plan. Seek Heaven!!

          • Jack,

            First off, what makes you think this plan is successful? Because Reliant threw a lot of advertising dollars at it? Additionally, I fail to see how pointing out that the math of a plan is higher than the market rate is being a hater. I’m simply doing math and explaining to people how the plan works.

            As for sticking to what I’m doing…this IS what I do. I try to help educate and explain how the market works and help people get the best out of the deregulated electricity market. And no, tat plan doesn’t have one fixed average rate…it’s literally a plan with multiple rates for different times of the day. If it were a fixed rate plan, it wouldn’t be an INDEXED plan, by definition.

            As for “beating the plan,” well, as I wrote already, there are plenty of plans out there that can and DO beat that rate…substantially.

  2. This appears to be a con, false advertising.

    Where do we go to in the State for protection from this type of fraud.

    This could well be a criminal, not a civil fraud!!!

    Where do we go, to turn them in??

    • Von,

      I’m not sure it constitutes any kind of fraud. People are electing of free choice (if not entirely understanding the market) to select this plan. They’re not doing anything illegal, they’re simply marking up their product to make more money. The best thing that can be done (as far as I know) is to cry out publicly and not order the plan. Of course, I’m not an attorney.

      • These people are always trying to shoot daggers at reliant EVERYTIME they come out with something good. The poster of this bullshit for all we know is an employee for one of them small loser companies that cant compete with the big dogs. I bet he tried to switch reliant customers from this plan and couldnt get past the loyalty we have to reliant as long time customers so he coms up with this to try and cost reliant customers. But it wont work. The plan is too successful and there is nothing he can do about it.

        • Just like for all we know you’re a reliant employee. How else would someone explain your dedication to searching by blog and commenting on articles posted more than a year ago?

          I also enjoy how you can’t actually argue your position with any FACTS.

    • Ummmmm no sir. The football stadium…..is PAID 4. Get your facts str8. I see the company I have come to love has alot of HATERS. They not payin for that stadium with your money. Yall really need to sit down with that crap. Its sad.

      • How would you know it’s paid for unless you’re reliant employee? Additionally, no, it isn’t paid for because that’s not how stadium leases work. They lease the right to have their name on the stadium and have to make yearly payments. THat’s how Sponsorship deals work.

        Also, are you really trying to imply that a company isn’t paying for a sponsorship deal with the money they make operating as a business? What money are they paying for it with, then? Do you know how commerce even works?

  3. Pingback: Some Facts about Pennywise Power & Reliant Energy: Part 2 « Texas Electricity Ratings: The Blog

  4. I must be missing something. If you are using 1000 kWh daytime + 500 kWh night time = 1500 kWh total. If your bill is $124 ($5 cash back from 500 kWh nights) you are paying $124/1500kWh = 8.3 cents per kWh. This seems like a good deal. Especially if you are like me and run your pool at night.

    What am i missing?

    • Ben,

      You are missing something The $124 was if a person uses only 1000 kWh a month total, and $500 of that were at night. That’s the flaw in the math you did. For a 1500 kWh usage, the bill you’d be looking at to start would be 194, and mixing in the discount would be $189. That’s an average kWh of 12.6, more than 50% higher than the 8.3 you suggested.

    • You’re not missing anything at all. Its a GREAT plan. However its a lgitimate threat to reliant’s competition. Now the competitors are making blogs to c-block. Its quite funny lol.

  5. Its not a con or fraud at all. As the author said there are other plans available with lower overall rates, even from Reliant.

    I can understand why people might pay a little more for Reliant. Its a big company with a good track record for customer service. Renewable energy is another perk that is actually worth money. But anyone who falls for this plan only has themselves to blame.

    TXU has a better plan, where nights are absolutely free. This only applies from 10pm-6am, so its less useful for most 9-5 folks, but if you’re flexible you could theoretically get your bill down to almost nothing.

  6. Jack. Free Nights would be better than discounted nights if this person used electricity solely within those time frames. Even if it’s unlikely, that’s up to the person posting. Your continued insistence to post “Averages” as some kind of proof is hilariously poor. “Flat Average” is incorrect and in this instance, impossible.

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