KPRC 2 Investigates: Higher rates, new fees mean your electricity bill may not go down this winter

What electricity rates can you expect this winter?

Summer is over and temperatures are cooling off. This is usually the time of year when you can get the lowest electric rates. But if you have shopped for a new electric plan lately, you know prices are not falling like the temperature. KPRC 2 Investigates has what you need to know about your electric bill.

HOUSTON – Summer is over and temperatures are cooling off. This is usually the time of year when you can get the lowest electric rates. But if you have shopped for a new electric plan lately, you know prices are not falling like the temperature. KPRC 2 Investigates has what you need to know about your electric bill.

What is the price of electricity right now in Texas?

The average price you can expect to pay right now if you want to lock in a 12-month plan is 16 to 17 cents a kilowatt. While that is down from the painful 21 cents rates we were seeing this summer, it still hurts. In the scorching heat of August, we worked with Kingwood homeowner Greg Geter to share ways you could use less energy and lower your electric bill. He already set his thermostat at 79 degrees during the day while his family was out of the house, but we discussed a few other things like hanging items to dry and stopping the drying cycle on the dishwasher.

KPRC 2 Investigates Ways 2 Save: 5 things you can do to save $816 a year on energy costs

Geter uses the company Texas Power Agents to manage his electricity bill and he’s locked into a decent 10.3-cent rate for the next three years. But if your electric contract is up, don’t expect to find rates anywhere near that low now.

“Do we return to that market anytime soon? I don’t think so,” said David Kinchen, Energy Ogre COO.

David Kinchen is the Chief Operating Officer of Energy Ogre, a company that helps electric customers find the lowest rates.

Why are electricity rates so high right now?

(Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Kinchen said several factors are keeping electric rates high. The increased cost of natural gas needed to make electricity and retail electric providers left skiddish after winter storm Uri.

“So now we’re worried about a problem in summer and then we’re worried about a problem in winter. So, what it means is we used to exit summer and I could find a really cheap, like six-month or eight-month contract to get me through the winter. And now winter is sometimes more expensive than summer.

  • Call your electric provider and ask for a lower rate

Kinchen said some electric companies are allowing customers to move into slightly lower rates if you agree to a longer-term contract. So, you should try calling your provider if you are locked into a higher rate from this summer.

  • Don’t accidentally let your contract lapse.

If you have a couple of months before your contract expires, check rates frequently.

“If they are looking at it, they’re going to need to be looking at it very frequently. Because it’s a very dynamic market right now. It used to be prices kind of moved around a little bit. But they could go up two cents tomorrow, and it wouldn’t even shock me anymore.”

  • New fees added to all bills

No matter your rate, there are some new fees on your bill you can’t control. Effective September 1st CenterPoint’s delivery charge went from 3.8 cents a kilowatt to 4.9 cents. It’s an increase of about $11 on the average customer’s bill.

Something else we’re all paying, no matter how much electricity we use is what’s called securitization charges. These charges are included in your energy charge or may be a separate line item on your bill. The cost on your bill depends on your usage and for an average customer equates to about $1 a month. This offsets some of the financial fallout to stabilize the market after winter storm Uri.

Did the electricity-cutting tricks help save money?

Ways 2 Save money on electricity costs in your home. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

It’s hard to say if the tips the Geter family tried actually helped lower the bill. After this interview, Geter made a point to consistently turn off the heated drying cycle on his dishwasher to save energy. Did it work?

“At the end of the day, turning those things off was probably the easiest thing to do,” he said.

He used 422 fewer kilowatts, cutting his bill by $38. Geter said the weather in September was quite a bit cooler than in August so that may also account for the lower bill.

Reminder: When shopping for electric rates, start with the state’s Power to Choose website, run by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.


About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.