Have you looked at retail electricity prices lately?
At the suggestion of readers, I have withdrawn the state-sponsored marketing site – PowerToChoose.org (Beware of imitators) – It was as if I was inserting my finger into a wall socket. I was shocked.
For as long as The Watchdog can remember, the editorial pages usually highlight kilowatt-hour rates of 6 to 9 cents.
The opening pages now show two-digit pricing of 10 cents or more.
Prices for the dominant players in the market – TXU Energy and Reliant Energy – offer an extra jolt.
TXU is offering one-year plans for 1,000 kWh about 12 cents. Other plan offer included 15.9 cents.
On the TXU website, I’ve seen different plans that differ from those shown on the state’s website. A reminder that with all companies, always remember to check PowerToChoose and that company’s website.
Reliant shows plans on the state’s website from 13.4 cents to 15.2 cents for different kWh uses.
Oncor . high rate
Another charge, called Oncor’s fee for sending to retail businesses, jumped 19% in September. This means that the mandatory fee for each kilowatt-hour used increased from about 3.5 cents to 4.15 cents. This is the first time I can remember that the Oncor shipment broke the 4 cents per kilowatt hour barrier.
To calculate your bill, if you use 1,000 kWh per month, multiply 1,000 times 4.15 cents. Then multiply 1,000 kWh by the retail price you are contracted to pay. Add the two together to get the total kWh charge. And don’t forget to add the base monthly Oncor fee of $3.42 on all bills on top of that.
Oncor told The Watchdog that the 19% increase, approved by the Public Utilities Commission, is to help cover the cost of equipment added to deal with North Texas growth.
Thanks to readers Jerome Giampalvo of Coppel, Doug Archer of Dallas and Phil Caron of Fort Worth for alerting The Watchdog about this.
Why these exorbitant prices?
What do Texas experts say about these price jumps?
The ban on Griddy, which sells energy at wholesale prices, says Ed Herz, a University of Houston energy fellow, removed a huge incentive for retailers to keep their prices low to compete.
He says the increase in natural gas prices we’re seeing is another reason because so many Texas power plants run on gas. He blames the hurricanes that hit the Gulf of Mexico.
He also blamed the Texas government’s rescue plan that allowed companies to make up for billions of dollars lost during the horrific freeze in February by buying $6.5 billion in bonds. These costs will be passed on to consumers.
When the Texas legislature sided with businesses at the expense of consumers, he said, “You know the game has been fixed.”
Beth Garza, who until 2019 served as an independent observer for network operator ERCOT, said companies selling one-year contracts should expect higher prices expected to rise over the term of those contracts.
James Boyle, who once headed the Texas Public Utilities Counsellor’s office, said, “We all know what happened in the legislative session is that everyone except the folks in the house were taken care of. And the consumer pays for other people’s mistakes. I think that’s reflected in those prices.”
Kelso King, who runs King Energy Consulting and monitors all Public Utilities Commission meetings, warns that there is still a consumer pass on the multibillion-dollar bailout of energy companies. This was the solution that lawmakers and Governor Greg Abbott agreed to.
King added, “For decades, policymakers have been saying that the great thing about a competitive market is that all the risks will be borne by generators rather than price payers. But when it comes down to it, unsurprisingly, end-use customers are left with a bag.”
Buying electricity in Texas
Here are some shopping tips from citizens of my two observer countries.
Judy Robbie Brown of Coppell was skeptical of Texas Power Switch, which operates across cities, mostly, to buy electricity in bulk at a discount. When I assured her it was a solid program, she rolled the numbers, compared other companies to it, and declared it a “real deal.” She still expects that she will spend $300 more on electricity than she did last year.
Dallas’ Nancy Upson discovered one of the dirty secrets: If you buy a 1,000 kWh plan and your usage is above or below that set amount each month, your prices go up. She says consumers should strive to hit the mark, even if it’s a waste of time. This also applies to the 500 kWh and 2000 kWh plans.
Dick Bunting of Bonham discovered that some of the companies that appear at the top of the PowerToChoose.org With supposedly low rates, it charges a $14.99 setup fee.
“I wonder how many people this has fooled,” he asks.
Pam King of Houston says he is wary of outside consultants. Check out their ratings and also the ratings of the electric companies as well. She says watch out for bait and switch.
A retail company may try to sell you a different plan than the one you want. She says, “They’ll tell you it’s cheaper or has some kind of advantage. One company tried to sell me a plan that included a maintenance contract for the air conditioners.”
She filed a complaint with PUC against her current provider for charging the wrong submission fee.
She concluded, “I’m not crazy.” “It’s the whole dysfunctional system.”
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