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Tuesday, November 19, 2019
 
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How to Save on Electricity in Houston

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[Tara Energy posted on  03/16/2015]

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Houston ranks among the fastest-growing major cities in the U.S., and its business sector is booming as fast as is its population. In fact, Houston now has over 2.2 million people packed into its 600 square miles of territory, making it the fourth-largest metropolis in the nation, and has more Fortune 500 companies located within its city limits than any U.S. city except New York.


This situation indeed leads to heavy power consumption within Houston, and one might suspect that would put a strain on supplies and cause rates to rise. In reality, however, Houston is one of the main hubs of the Texas energy industry, is "tax and regulation friendly" toward power users, and like 85% of Texas, is a deregulated energy market. As a result, Houston has around 90 different electric retailers competing for its residents' patronage, which drives down prices.

How to Explore Your Power Options

Since 2002, Texas has been a "deregulated energy state," which means that consumers in any given area are allowed the option of which retail electric provider (REP) to use. Under a deregulated system, an REP is a company that sells electricity directly to consumers—it is the REP that mails (or emails) you your monthly statement. An electric utility company (EUC), on the other hand, is the company responsible for maintaining the power lines, reading your meter, restoring power after an outage, and actually transporting electricity to you home or business. The EUC's rates are a part of every bill in your area, but it its the REP's rates that make the difference as to whether you pay more or less overall.

To find Houston-area electric retailers and compare their prices, you can use any online price-comparison tool. Power to Choose (at powertochoose.org) is a free forum where Texas power providers can list their offers for consumers to view. There are many other such "electric shopping tools," however, including powertoswitch.com, comparepower.com, and saveonenergy.com (to name just a few).

These websites empower consumers to take advantage of the savings that Texas' deregulation laws create. And in fact, 85% of commercial/industrial customers and 40% of residential customers in deregulated areas of Texas have switched power providers at least once since 2002.

How to Evaluate Power Plan Offers

The presence of  around 90 power competitors in Houston ensures you can find a company that is right for you, but paradoxically, it also makes it somewhat bewildering for the uninitiated to know how to sort through their options. There is far more to consider than simply the per kWh rate, including such factors as the following:

  • Businesses that consume large quantities of electricity can often negotiate with power providers to create a customized plan that fits their exact needs. They may be able to get longer contract terms (if desired), perks like dedicated account managers, and special lower per kWh rates.
  • On powertochoose.com, you can explore which companies ensure customer’s consumption is offset from renewable energy resources and decide how heavy that will weigh into making your decision.
  • Finally, note that Retail Electric Providers will not charge set-up fees. All fee information can be viewed at Power to Choose or another price-comparison network. 

The Benefits of Getting a "Smart Meter" Installed

Thousands of Houston residents have already taken advantage of the latest electric meter technology, called a "smart meter." Smart meters not only measure the total energy consumption between readings, but they also tell you when that energy was consumed. More specifically, smart meters store power-use data in fifteen-minute increments and then automatically transfer that data to your EUC. This eliminates the need for the utility company to send someone out to physically read the meter. Finally, your usage records can be accessed any time via the Smart Meter Texas (SMT) program.

SMT provides your usage records broken down month by month, day by day, and by 15-minute blocks of time. This information will help you to see when you are using the most electricity so that you can learn to change your habits and better conserve power. It also allows you to tap into discounts offered by some Houston power providers for using power during non-peak hours. SMT makes it easy to stay informed. You simply use the "Green Button" to download your energy use stats.

Conclusion

Houston residents and businesses enjoy a unique situation that keeps their electricity rates lower than in many other parts of Texas and of the nation. They also, however, have tools and options available that can cut down on their rates even more. Both financial savings and environmental impacts can benefit from increased competition and from well educated consumers.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deregulation_of_the_Texas_electricity_market
http://www.powertochoose.org/
https://www.smartmetertexas.com/CAP/public/home/home_faq.html#a1
https://comparepower.com/find-the-cheapest-electricity-rates-in-houston-power-to-choose-energy/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houston

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