Company uses power of numbers to negotiate lower electric rates

HOUSTON – Join a club and save on electricity. That's the idea behind one company helping to hook you up with low electric rates.

It's called One Big Switch, and they're all about using the power of numbers to get the best rates for members. All you need to give One Big Switch to join is your email address and ZIP code. The company then negotiates with electric companies to offer low rates to its pool of interested customers. 

"They recognize the opportunity in getting a whole lot of new customers on board, so they'll drop their rates just slightly just to get those customers," said David Liston, the North American Operations Officer for One Big Switch. 

So far, more than 73,000 people in Texas have signed up. One Big Switch debuted its first electric offer in August from Tri-Eagle Energy. Liston said it was 0.2 cents lower than what Tri-Eagle offered anywhere else. Within hours, other electric companies lowered their rates to compete. 

"It doesn't sound like much, but for all of our members that have switched, they said, on average, they saved between $300 and $500," said Liston.  

But One Big Switch does not always have the lowest prices. 

The energy broker just released its second round of offers this week. They include a seven-month contract with Discount Power for 8.6 cents a kilowatt when you use a total of about 2,000 kWh and an 18-month contract with Entrust Energy for 9.8 cents a kilowatt when you use 2,000 kWh. 

While we found lower rates on the Power to Choose website, Liston said the price is not the only reason they pick certain electric companies. 

"We also want them to be from a very credible provider," he said. "We want them to be fixed rates with no gimmicks, no gotchas." 

Liston pointed out the lower rates on the Power to Choose website are from companies with low customer ratings and contracts that will expire right in the heat of summer, which is a terrible time to find a new electric company.   

At the very least, One Big Switch is a good place to sign up so you can check what rates they are offering. You can use that information to shop around or sign up with a new provider.