Demand Response Programs and 2015

Now that the new year has been rung in, and everyone is getting back to their regular daily lives, it is time to focus back in on Texas electricity in 2015. I previously wrote about Critical Peak (or Demand Response) programs last July. Now that we’ve rung in 2015, lets take a quick look at the programs. With lots of people shopping for electricity ahead of the summer heat and higher electricity bills, Demand Response programs might be a good way to save money.

In short, a Demand Response program is a plan where when the electricity grid is threatened by potential rolling blackouts (when electricity demand exceeds supply), customers can reduce their only electricity consumption and receive a rebate from their electricity companies. Commercial electricity customers have had the opportunity to do this for years, but only recently has Demand Response become available for residential electricity customers.

Lots of companies offer their Demand Response plans in different ways. Some people offer bill credits, others offer specific demand response plans a customer must order. However, some demand response plans, like Direct Energy, offer their Demand Response programs a little differently. At Direct Energy, customers simply enroll in a Demand Response plan program the same way they’d enroll for something like auto bill-pay. Any plan, and any customer in Oncor and Centerpoint qualify except for pre-pay customers. So if you’re already a Direct Energy customer, simply enrolling in their plan and lowering your electricity consumption on days when you get a notice that it is a Peak Event. By doing that, customers will get a 5% bill credit on their next bill.  As far as Demand Response programs go, it’s the easiest and most seamless one on the market today.

Learn more and enroll below:


Direct Energy Purchases Bounce Energy

This morning Direct Energy has announced their purchase of Texas retail electricity provider Bounce Energy. Bounce Energy, who has consistently been at the top of the Texas Electricity Ratings rankings (currently #1), has easily been the most innovative electricity provider in the country in terms of their online technology/capabilities and their success in reaching out to potential and existing customers through social media outlets.

Additionally, just recently, Bounce made groundbreaking contributions to the electricity space with the launch of their new MyAccount functionality, as well as their Build Your Own Plan functionality. The Build Your Own Plan is the only one of it’s kind in the electricity space, and allows customers to select their own plan term length, the amount of renewable energy in the plan, whether they want automated and paperless billing, and more.

In contrast, Direct Energy has long been lacking in the realm of online functionality, digital customer outreach, and a customer friendly web-portal. So on the surface, this seems like a very smart purchase by Direct Energy, but only if it’s viewed as a strategic purchase of specialists and experienced personnel to bolster some trouble areas of their business. If it is just viewed as a purchase of a customer book, then I’d purport that Direct Energy is wasting a great opportunity.

Fortunately, from some of the quotes in the press release, it looks like Direct Energy is very much viewing this as a strategic purchase:

“We are always looking for new ways to enhance our customers’ experience and satisfaction,” said Steven Murray, President of Direct Energy Residential. “Bounce Energy’s digital marketing insights and e-commerce platform will bolster our capabilities as we expand our product offerings to current and potential customers.”


“Direct Energy is the ideal organization with which to expand our e-commerce platform and digital marketing capabilities,” said Robbie Wright, CEO of Bounce Energy.

If that is the case, and by all appearances it seems to be a strategic purchase, this is great news for both Direct Energy and Texas electricity customers alike. Bounce’s technology and marketing savvy along with Direct Energy’s resources (which allow them to go toe to toe with incumbents like TXU and Reliant), could create the kind of Texas electricity company that will push innovation in new ways that will only benefit Texans, as well as customers in all other states Direct Energy sells electricity.

All in all, it’s a very interesting day for Texas electricity customers. The #7 company on Texas Electricity Ratings is purchasing the current #1 company, but there’s a lot of hope that the union will mean great things for customers. Congratulations to both Direct Energy and Bounce Energy!

Texas Electricity Ratings: Rankings Update: 10/16/2012

Summer has passed and we’ve had several events that have influenced some of the ways we rank providers at Texas Electricity Ratings, including rate changes as well as the releasing of the latest JD Power & Associates survey of Texas electricity providers, among others. And surprisingly enough, Continue reading “Texas Electricity Ratings: Rankings Update: 10/16/2012” »

Texas Electricity Ratings Updates Rankings: May 8th 2012

Everyone, I’ve been talking about updating the rankings for the past week or so, but we’ve been very busy getting the new Texas Electricity Ratings website launched and live. However, now that we’ve completed that, it is time to focus on the site’s core responsibility: Ranking Texas Electricity Providers and helping customers shop for electricity plans. We’ve updated our rankings below, and I want to talk about the importance of the rankings and shopping during the summer months.

We have a new #1 Electricity provider… Continue reading “Texas Electricity Ratings Updates Rankings: May 8th 2012” »

2011 JD Power & Associates Poll Released: Champion Energy #1 Again

The JD Power & Associates group has released their most recent survey of the deregulated electricity providers operating in Texas. In their own words:

The study, now in its fourth year, measures customer satisfaction with retail electric utility providers in Texas by examining four key factors (listed in order of importance): price; billing and payment; communications; and customer service.

You can view the full results here, but I’d like to run down some of my thoughts about the winners and other participants below.

First, congratulations to Champion Energy, who has now won the award for a 2nd straight year. Their presence and reputation in the market continues to be excellent, and this survey supports that. Their score was a 745/1000. Landing in the 2nd spot was Spark Energy, which is their highest showing yet in this survey, with a score of 740/1000. Rounding out the top 3 was StarTex Power, a mainstay in this yearly poll, with a score of 739/100. As an interesting factoid, all 3 of these retail electricity providers are headquartered in Houston, Texas. And I’m personally proud to say that all of the top 3 REPs are also partners with Texas Electricity Ratings.

Other Texas Electricity Ratings partners fared well on the survey. Amigo Energy, Direct Energy, and Dynowatt all scored 4 out of 5 in overall customer satisfaction, as did Green Mountain Energy and Gexa Energy. Bounce Energy also scored a 4 out of 5 in overall satisfaction, which is extremely impressive considering this is their first year on the survey.

The incumbent electricity providers, TXU and Reliant, did not fare well at all on the survey. TXU Energy was rated last of all providers surveyed, with 2 out of 5 for overall customer satisfaction. Reliant Energy scored 3 out of 5.

I would encourage everyone to read the full press release, and it’s certainly worth reading, but I’m pasting almost the entire thing in this post anyway. Some more interesting facts from the PR below, with my thoughts:

Overall satisfaction among residential customers of electric retailers in Texas has increased to 659 on a 1,000-point scale in 2011—up by 25 points from 2010 and 30 points from 2009. While satisfaction has improved in 2011 in all four factors examined in the study, satisfaction with price improves most notably to an average of 644, increasing by 34 points from 2010. During the past several years, customer-reported bill amounts have declined steadily from a median of $167 in 2009 to $156 in 2010 and $150 in 2011. These price decreases are primarily due to declining natural gas prices.

Well, this seems to contradict Recharge Texas’s hilariously off-base statements about Texans being dissatisfied with deregulated electricity, which I already broke down: here.

Satisfaction with the billing and payment factor has also improved considerably, up 31 points from 2010. Contributing to this increase is a shift in payment methods, with a higher proportion of customers choosing to pay their utility bill electronically rather than by mail. Approximately 46 percent of customers indicate paying their bill either through a financial institution or utility website, while 23 percent of customers mail their payments. Satisfaction among customers who use online and electronic payment methods (recurring bank or credit card debits) is considerably higher than among customers using traditional methods (mail, phone or in-person payment).

I personally think this is a huge deal. It illustrates perfectly the kind of innovation that has been forced onto the market by competition. Not only for online bill pay, but mobile applications and any other kind of innovation that has taken place in the past 9 years. Competition forces companies to stay at or ahead of the curve, if possible. Some regulated electricity providers in other states don’t even have online bill pay yet.

And some final snippets:

  • It pays to shop around before deciding on an electric retailer. Customers who consider more than one electric retailer are substantially more satisfied than those who only consider one retailer.
  • It may be tempting to choose a retailer based solely on low prices, but this could result in being less satisfied. Customers who choose their retailer based on good customer service are notably more satisfied than those who make their decisions based on low price, reputation, past experience with a retailer or recommendations from family or friends.
  • Select your payment plan carefully. Customers who opt for a fixed rate plan—which guarantees a set rate during the entire length of the contract—are much more satisfied than customers who choose a variable price plan.
  • If you’re dissatisfied with your current electric retailer, consider switching. Among customers who rated their previous provider as “unacceptable” (one point on a 10-point scale) and switched to a new provider, satisfaction soars to an average of 747—nearly 90 points higher than the industry average.
  • Around The Texas Electricity Blogosphere

    Here are some interesting blog entries from Texas Electricity Ratings partners that I wanted to pass along.

    Why Doesn’t Houston Bury Power Lines? – This article from Spark Energy discusses some of the reasons why we don’t see more communities burying power lines in Houston. Burying power lines is a common practice in other parts of the country, and would seem like common sense in a part of Texas that is prone to the occasional Hurricane. This article discusses some of the reason, and they’re not all related to the cost.

    Bounce Energy – Bounce has written a number of blog posts lately focused on helping Texans during their moving process. The series includes an overview of the moving process, some pre-move tips, as well as post-move ideas and suggestions. It should come in handy for anyone moving this summer.

    Direct Energy’s Disaster Supply Kit – And finally, Direct Energy indicates to you what should go in a Disaster Supply Kit. This is important, particularly for areas of Coastal Texas as hurricane season approaches. However last winter’s Ice Storms were a reminder to everyone that it is a good idea for anyone to have a disaster supply kit ready, regardless of whether you’re in a Hurricane zone or not.

    Texas Electricity Ratings Update: Bounce Energy #1

    With summer having arrived, I wanted to highlight the most recent update in the Texas Electricity Ratings rankings of providers. In the latest ratings calculation, we had a major shift in the top spot, with Bounce Energy sliding into the #1 spot, which been occupied by Champion Energy for almost a year. Bounce barely edged out Champion for the top spot for several reasons. The first was a commitment improving their customer service. They’ve cut their total number of PUC complaints in the half 6 months, making consistent strides to improve what before was an area of weakness. With that improvement factored in with their already superior rewards program, their competitive pricing, and their innovative approach to web usability was enough to propel them to the top spot. Congratulations to Bounce Energy.

    Champion slides back into the second position. And the top 5 is rounded out by TER newcomer Direct Energy, Gexa Energy, and StarTex Power. Direct Energy is the largest retail energy provider in North America, and StarTex Power was recently purchased by Constellation Energy. For a complete look at the Texas Electricity Ratings top ten, visit our homepage and scroll down to the rankings list.