HOUSTON – The cost of electricity is expected to go up this summer. If you are in a variable rate electric plan or your contract is expiring soon, you could get hit with some of the highest rates we've seen in years.
Three large coal power plants in Texas closed at the beginning of 2018. Combined, they made enough electricity to power more than 2 million homes. Some 400,000 people moved to Texas in 2017, and now the operator of our state's electric grid is predicting record-breaking demand for electricity this summer.
Energy insiders say the trifecta will add up to higher electric rates.
If you are currently in a contract with an electric provider that will last through August, you probably won't feel much of the impact. If your contract is expiring anytime now through August or you are on a variable rate plan, you need to sign a fixed-rate contract now.
On the state's Power to Choose website, you can shop for an electricity plan by typing in your ZIP code. Beware of low rates, because they often are much higher once you read the "Facts Label" also available on the website.
For rates we found posted at 2.7 cents a kWh, the label revealed that you would be penalized $179 if you go even 1 kilowatt over 1000 kWh. With that charge, your rate jumps to 15.9 cents a kWh.
The least expensive rate we found, without the hidden fees and charges, is 10.4 cents a kWh from Tri-Eagle. Once you narrow down your choices to two or three companies, check out the complaint ratings of those companies right on the same site.
The last time we saw electric rates increase instead of decrease was 2011, so Texas is due for a rate increase. Since then, many more websites and tools for shopping for electricity have popped up. Here are some of the most popular:
My True Cost: This website is owned and operated by CenterPoint Energy. When you input your smart meter number, the website can use your usage data to tell you how much your electric bill will be if you picked various plans on its website. CenterPoint charges the Retail Electric Providers if they want to be listed on this site, so there are far fewer plans here than on Power to Choose. When we compared for an inner loop address, there were 83 plans on My True Cost compared to 179 on Power to Choose. You may be missing less expensive plans if you don't look at the state's website also. More info
Geek Your Rate: This website finds you the lowest-priced electric provider and plan in your area based on your last 12 months of usage (You have to type it in from your bills). You pay a one-time fee of $9.95 to access the rates and the website's algorithms to find your best plan for a 48-hour time period. You can also try it for free to see how it works, but the data Geek Your Rate gives in the free trial are 6 months old. More info
Smart Meter Texas: At this website, you can get access to your smart meter data so that you can shop around and know exactly what plans will work best for you. This is the same data CenterPoint uses on its My True Cost website. This site puts the information at your fingertips because, after all, it is your data. More info
Energy Ogre: Grab a recent electric bill and head to www.energyogre.com. Enter some basic information from your bill and within minutes, Energy Ogre lets you know if it can save you money. If it can, you pay the company for one year, either $10 a month or $120 up front. Once you sign up, the company keeps looking at energy plans to make sure you're always getting the lowest rate possible. When you sign up with Energy Ogre, your electric bill and the $10 monthly fee is set on auto-pay so you don't have to worry about remembering to pay each month. More info
Texas Power Agents: For $99 a year, Texas Power Agents will evaluate your current contract terms, access your historical usage, and determine the best plan for you going forward. If you are currently in a contract with an early termination fee, they can calculate if it is best for you to cancel now or stay until the contract is finished before securing a better deal. More info
Real Simple Energy: For $9 a month (Your first 3 months are free.), this company searches for the best electric provider for you. They monitor your bills each month and look for the best rates available when your contract is near expiration. This service just launched in April 2018, but it offers a free search engine of rates and plans. More info
Energy Choice Experts: This company provides an apples-to-apples cost comparison of all 12 month plans based upon a client's usage history and guarantees they will find the Lowest Annual Cost plan for each client based upon their usage pattern. New clients pay a flat $35. Returning clients pay $30. You sign up the for electricity service yourself. They only provide the analysis (the hard part). More info