Capital One and the American City Business Journals are working together to sponsor a contest to see which businesses are the best at social media, called the Social Madness contest. The contest is designed to measure how successful local businesses are with using social media to interact with their customers. Now obviously Continue reading “Texas Electricity and Social Media” »
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” »
Last week’s purchase of First Choice Power by Direct Energy was yet another major acquisition of a Retail Electricity Provider by a major energy conglomerate. There’s been around a half a dozen of these deals in the past year, and in my opinion things have gotten a bit muddled and confusing. So I wanted to write a post to chart exactly who owns who in the deregulated electricity space in Texas.
Dominion Resources: Dominion Energy probably isn’t a name that is very recognized by Texas electricity customers. However, they are a huge energy company that deals in both energy generation and distribution in multiple states. Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, they own the incumbent and regulated electricity providers in Virginia and North Carolina. In Texas, they own Cirro Energy, which they purchased in 2008. Earlier this year, Cirro Energy purchased Simple Power and absorbed their customers.
NRG: NRG, a new Jersey based company, is another huge energy company with massive power generation resources. On top of energy generation plants, NRG also owns Green Mountain Energy, which they purchased in 2010 for 350 million dollars. In 2009, they purchased former incumbent Texas electricity provider Reliant Energy for 287 million and change when Reliant was under heavy financial distress. This was a steal considering Reliant was the second largest REP in the state at the time and has huge brand recognition. In turn, Reliant Energy owns (and I believe operates) Pennywise Power, which is a new brand they’ve put into the deregulated Texas electricity market to try and capture different customers without effecting their core brand. So NRG owns Green Mountain and Reliant, and Reliant in turn owns Pennywise Power.
Just Energy – Just Energy is yet another big energy company, with resources all over North America. They had been a fairly smaller player in the retail electricity market in Texas until recently. Just Energy itself was mostly a niche provider, offering 5 year long term contracts to customers. However, they recently purchased the entire retail arm of Fulcrum Power. That includes Amigo Energy, Tara Energy, and Smart Prepaid. So now all of those brands are part of the Just Energy portfolio. They’ll likely keep the branding and still do business under the names Tara and Amigo, but it’s all Just Energy. Just Energy also owns another smaller REP, Commerce Energy.
Direct Energy: Direct Energy is actually a subsidiary of a British company called Centrica, but they’re known almost exclusively in North America as Direct Energy, so that’s the name we’re going with. Direct Energy is yet another huge energy generation company with huge and varied resources. In the retail electricity space they do business as Direct Energy and they are one of the biggest REP’s in Texas. They also operate in Texas as WTU Energy and CPL Energy in two respective TDSPs. In the Spring, Direct Energy also purchased Gateway Energy Resources for 90 millions dollars. Since then, Direct has removed Gateway as a brand from doing business in Texas. Just last week, Direct Energy made another huge purchase, this time of First Choice Power for 270 million dollars. Which is a huge price tag. So, as of now, every company I mentioned above is really a subsidiary of Direct Energy.
Constellation Energy: Constellation Energy is the largest energy supplier in America. Their 2007 revenues were 21 billion dollars. So yes, they’re another big energy guy. They own the regulated electricity entity Baltimore Gas and Electric. In 2 month period last spring and summer, Constellation announced purchases of both StarTex Power as well as MX Energy, two retail electricity providers that operate in the Texas deregulated markets.
Gexa Energy: NextEra Energy is the parent company of Florida Power and Light, the regulated electricity provider for much of Florida. They’re another big energy company, having generation resources in over 20 states. In 2005, Florida Power & Light purchased Gexa Energy. They still do business in Texas under the name Gexa.
Dynowatt: Dynowatt is a subsidiary of Accent Energy, which is a large company with natural gas ties in Ohio. Accent also serves deregulated New York, but they do business in Texas as Dynowatt.
TXU Energy: TXU is actually a subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings, which also owns Luminant, the power generation portion of the old TXU company that was forced to split because of deregulation laws. Now Luminant and TXU operate separately. TXU is the largest individual REP in Texas and one of the two former incumbent providers.
The following Retail Electricity Providers are stand-alone entities:
Texpo Energy: Texpo Energy is a smaller company operating in Texas. What makes them interesting is that they actually operate under 3 different brand names while all sharing the same PUC Certificate. The other two brands are Southwest Power & Light and YEP. So to sum things up, Texpo, Southwest Power & Light, and YEP are all the same company operating in Texas under different names.
Hopefully this helps to give people a clearer picture about who some of the players are in Texas electricity. It is important that people know exactly who the company is that is supplying their electricity. For example, if someone had a bad experience with one company, they might not want to get service from another one of their subsidiaries. And since there’s been so many purchases and mergings of REP’s in the last 6 months, I thought it might be a good idea to chronicle which companies have ended where after the dust has settled. I’ll try to update this page moving forward as well. I doubt we’ve seen the last of big REP acquisitions, so this family tree might change.
I’ve included a crude flowchart below. Yes, I do realize it looks like it was put together by a 3rd grader.
Good afternoon, everyone. I just wanted to post a quick update that I’ve revised the Texas Electricity Ratings ranking of providers this week. The new rankings and numbers are posted, although there wasn’t much change in the actual order of providers.
Bounce Energy remained in the top spot, boosted by their great freshman performance in the JD Power Rankings that were released in August. They raised their average a few tenths of a point with that addition and by continuing to work to their strengths as an REP. So congratulations to Bounce Energy!
Champion Energy held onto the number 2 spot, although Gexa (leapfrogging Direct Energy) closed the gap after Champion was hit with some negative reviews by customers after August heat spikes wreaked havoc on their indexed plans. Direct Energy and StarTex power rounded out the top 5.
It was a tough summer for electricity providers in Texas. Lots of companies suffered losses because of the energy shortages. And because of some bad pricing scenarios with some variable and indexed plans, many providers have pulled their Month To Month plans from the market completely. By the same turn, lots of customers had bad summers as well, just because of bad circumstances and the worst summer in Texas recorded history. That being said, the wheels keep turning. Below is a full list of the provider rankings.
Texas Electricity Ratings rates providers in the marketplace based on a number of different factors, including pricing, PUC complaint statistics, Better Business Bureau evaluations, third party surveys, customer service and many other important categories.
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.
Earlier this week, I got an email from a Texas Electricity Ratings reader, suggesting I write an article about Minimum Usage charges. We’ve discussed Minimum Usage charges in the past here, but to clear things up, in short, they’re additional charges that are tacked onto a person’s bill if they use less than a certain amount of electricity per month.
The tricky part is that the charges and the thresholds for the charges are different for every REP (Retail Electricity Provider). Which is what the reader asked me about. I thought it was a great idea, and I should have thought of it myself a long time ago. So I ran through most of the major providers operating in Texas and researched to put together a list of the minimal usage charges for each provider, as best as I could find. So below is a guide to the minimal usage charges for Texas electricity.
Ambit Energy: $9.99 for less than 1000 kWh per month
Amigo Energy: Depending on the plan it is $9.95 of $6.95 for less than 1000 kWh per month
Bounce Energy: $4.95 for less than 1000 kWh per month for almost all of their plans, except intro plans are $6.96 per month for less than 1000 kWh.
Champion Energy: $4.95 for less than 500 kWh per month
Cirro Energy: $5.25 for less than 1000 kWh per month
Direct Energy: I couldn’t find a Monthly Fee in their Terms of Service or EFLs
Dynowatt: $6.95 for less than 1000 kWh per month
First Choice Power: $5 for less than 650 kWh per month, plus a $4.95 base charge
GEXA Energy: Seems to simply use a sliding rate per plan for different usage w/o a minimum charge
Green Mountain Energy: Didn’t seem to see any minimum usage charge in the EFL or Terms of Service
Mega Energy: $12.96 for less than 1000 kWh per month
MX Energy: Seems to simply use a sliding rate per plan for different usage w/o minimum charge
Reliant Energy: $9.95 for less than 800 kWh per month
Southwest Power & Light: I didn’t see minimum usage but they had a $7.95 monthly meter fee.
Spark Energy: $8.99 for less than 1000 kWh per month
StarTex Power: $4.99 for less than 500 kWh per month
Tara Energy: $6.95 for less than 500 kWh per month
Texas Power: $10.00 for less than 1000 kWh per month
TXU Energy: TXU uses a base $4.95 charge and sliding rates for less or greater than 1000 kWh, per plan.
Also, I’d like to point out a few other things about the list above. First off, just because I didn’t find a charge doesn’t mean there isn’t one…I just could have missed it looking through the documents. Additionally, all the EFLs I looked at were from plans in the Centerpoint service area. I looked at at least 2-3 plans for each provider to get an idea of consistent charges listed…I did NOT pour through every EFL from every single provider. This is simply to give people and idea of what to expect, and hopefully be helpful. Also, it’s important to note that for the guys that don’t have any minimal usage charge, chances are high they simply tacked it onto their sliding rate scale. But if you find a great price on a guy with no listed charges, then absolutely go for it.
One last note, Stream Energy’s EFL was…weird. Despite advertising their tiered pricing for rates on a 500, 1000, and 2000 kWh scale like everyone else in the market, the fine print of the EFL says their actual tiers are:
The Price is a tiered
pricing structure, based on the following tiers: i) up to 699 kWh depicted in the EFL as Average Monthly Usage of 500 kWh, ii) 700 to 1,499 kWh depicted in the EFL as Average Monthly Usage of 1,000 kWh, and iii) 1,500 to 2,499 kWh depicted in the EFL as Average Monthly Usage of 2,000 kW
So just keep in mind that you have to use a bit more electricity to get to their cheaper electricity rates.
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.
Today’s entry into for this week’s Texas electricity shopping guide covers the South Texas region of Texas (AEP Central). This region is hands down the most expensive area in Texas, with prices starting at a full cent higher than rates in Dallas. In fact, this week I’m seeing something that I’ve seen for the first time in regards to electricity plans: the fixed rate electricity plans in South Texas actually start off cheaper than the month to month electricity plans, even including the promotional rates. I’ve seen them start at the same rates before, but never cheaper. It simply goes to show that electricity companies are more interested in attracting customers for long term deals instead of dealing with the uncertainty of month to month customers. And to attract those long term customers, they’re willing to give them the best electric rates possible.
Below are a list of the cheapest electricity rates from many of the most respected electricity providers in Texas. It includes long term fixed rate plans, month to month electricity plans, and 100% environmentally friendly green electricity plans.
Month to Month Green Electricity Plans:
Long Term Fixed Rate Electricity Plans:
Long Term Fixed Rate Green Electricity Plans:
Happy New Year! The Texas Electricity Ratings shopping guide is returning with the first post of 2011. I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday, and hopefully got to decompress before returning to their regular routines. Well, we’re back and today we’re looking at Dallas electricity and Fort Worth electricity, which is the Oncor service area footprint. The aim of the shopping guide is to highlight the lowest electric rates from many of the most respected electricity companies operating in the deregulated regions of Texas. We take a look at month to month electricity plans, long term fixed rate electricity plans, and 100% environmentally friendly green energy plans. Hopefully this will help out anyone shopping for electricity in Dallas.
Month to Month Electricity Plans:
Today’s entry into the Texas Electricity Shopping Guide is for Houston electricity. The Centerpoint area is one of the most expensive areas of Texas for electric rates so it’s important to shop with the intention to pick the best plans to save money. The shopping guide below has the cheapest listing of electricity prices for month to month plans, long term plans, and 100% environmentally friendly green electricity plans.
Month to Month Green Electricity Plans:
Long Term Fixed Rate Electricity Plans:
Long Term Fixed Rate Green Electricity Plans: