How to Choose an Electrical Provider in Collin County, TX
Allen, Frisco, McKinney, Plano, Prosper, Wylie
After living in Texas for almost seven years, I decided it was time to check into saving some money on our electric bill. Even as someone who loves
research, the task was quite overwhelming. So I turned to my neighbors on
to get me started in the right direction. To be honest, without the help of one amazing
neighbor, Sharon Missler, I still wouldn't understand this process.
Comparing a past year's usage and cost while enrolled in a TXU variable rate month-to-month plan to Constellation New Energy's 12-month plan
resulted in an approximate annual savings of $438. That's over $400 of after-tax cash we can keep in our pocket.
Why are there Multiple Electrical Companies in Texas?
Texas is one of about half the states in the U.S. that allow citizens to choose their own electrical provider through deregulation.
Does this mean I can Choose my Electrical Provider?
Many in Texas can
choose their provider, some cannot. If your electric bill says CoServ at the top, you will not be able to choose a
different provider because your electric service is provided by a co-op.
What Government Agency is Responsible for the Electrical Companies in Texas?
The Public Utility Commission of Texas
electrical power companies in Texas.
Does Texas have its own Electric Grid?
Yes. There are four electricity grids that serve the state, but the electricity grid operated by the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)
serves about three-fourths of the state. This grid is largely isolated from the interconnected power systems serving the eastern and western
United States. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Is There a Government Website that Helps Residents Choose an Electrical Plan?
The Public Utility Commission of Texas provides the free comparison website Power to Choose
Residents can enter their zip code and see as many as 200 plans. These plans can be sorted by price per kWh, the company name, or renewable energy
But there are problems with this website. Electrical companies find ways to manipulate the system so they appear to be the least expensive rate.
And you're going to have to love to dig into numbers and create spreadsheets to find the best deal. Or have a friend who loves this and is willing
to do it for you.
Let me be upfront: I hate numbers and get dizzy when I had to balance my checkbook. That's while I'll be forever grateful to Sharon for helping me
decipher this information.
Can I Just Sign up for a Month-to-Month Plan?
Yes, of course. But it may also be the most expensive plan.
This is so Complicated. Is There a Service to Figure this Out?
Yes, for the rest of us who are too busy, too lazy, or just unwilling to dig into this maze, there are several websites that will do the work for you.
Among others they are:
Is there a Brief Summary I can Read on this Process of Finding an Electrical Company?
There is an excellent article
here in the Dallas News
published in July 2018 summarizing the process of comparing rates and tips such as "avoid door-to-door salesmen".
Tips from Your Neighbor, by Sharon Missler
I've not found any article that goes into the details you'll need as shared by Sharon below. If you're not already an electricity shopping pro, you
will be by the time you finish reading this article. This article is shared in good faith by one neighbor trying to help other neighbors. The
tips are not guaranteed, warranted, or promised to make your life wonderful; you are responsible for your choice of electrical provider.
This site is really great, although if one wants to compare plans of various term lengths, you have to manipulate the
system a bit. For example, if you want to price a 6 month plan, you need to zero out the usage for months that will not be included in the plan and
ask for plans with a minimum term of 6 months. The system will calculate both the cost per month and total cost for the 6 month period for plans
matching the requested term criteria and show the top 15 results. If one follows this procedure, the program only calculates the cost for the 6
months for which usage was entered, even if a plan has a 12 month term. If you do not zero out the usage for months not included in the 6 month
term, the program will annualize the cost of the 6 month plans. Doing so does not yield an accurate comparison between a 6 month plan and a 12
month plan. If you only want to look at 12 month (or 24 or 36) month plans, fill in the usage for all 12 months and then change the search criteria
for plans with a minimum term of 12, 24, or 36 months.
Once you decide on a plan that you want to explore further, enter the plan number (1-15 in the resulting list) and a link to the EFL (Energy Facts
Label) and TOS (Terms of Service) will appear as well as the company rating and cancellation fee. This program actually lists ratings in two ways:
the standard 1-5 star rating and a multiplier rating, such as 1.4X (meaning that a company received 1.4 times the number of complaints as other
companies). A rating of 1X means that they are on par with other companies. A rating of .5X means that they received half the number of complaints
as other companies.
The first step to find a new electric company is to determine what provider (Transmission and Distribution Utility or TDU) delivers electricity to
your home. In our area, it should be either Oncor or CoServ. The easiest way to determine your TDU is to look at your electric statement and see who
it says to contact in case of emergency or outage (your TDU maintains the lines and actually provides the electricity). If it says to call CoServ,
you're done. They are an energy coop and you have to get your electricity from them. If your TDU is Oncor, you are free to choose among various
electric companies offering plans in your zip code.
The second step is to assemble your electricity usage by month for the past year. You need to know your usage per month, not annually, in order to
calculate charges based on any given plan. Once that's done, start with PowerToChoose.org
or any of the sites suggested above, to compare rate plans offered by various companies in your area. You should note that any given electric company
has many different rate plans and not all plans show up on every site that allows you to comparison shop. I've found that the plans listed on a
company's home page are often among the highest.
Crunch some numbers. Using the PowerToChoose.org
site, You can ask to see all plans or
narrow them down based on your usage. Narrow the choices to plans that favor your usage most months. Each company will state their price per
kilowatt hour in three tiers: 500, 1,000 and 2,000 kWh.
To know which plan truly benefits you most, you have to read the details of the various plans. Some charge you a set monthly fee on top of usage
or give you a credit based on usage. Every company and every plan has its own way to calculate the price per kWh that you have to interpret by
reading their Energy Facts Label (EFL). Each plan will have a link to various documents that you can peruse. Some plans are very straight forward,
but some are pretty convoluted. I make sure that I can calculate what the company states as their price per kWh in each of the three tiers and
then calculate my cost each month of the year using my actual usage from the prior 12 months.
Note that in most cases, you cannot simply multiply your usage by the stated tier rate. You must make full calculations using your usage amount
because usages less or more than the tier breaks (500, 1,000, 2,000) will affect the price per kWh.
Add the monthly costs you calculate to get your annual cost on a given plan, and repeat the process with other plans that look promising. Some
people only look at the average price per kWh, most often the pricing at 1,000 kWh, to choose a plan. I guarantee that they most often leave money
on the table because they are ignoring fees and such stated in the EFL.
The EFL will also state the term of the plan and cancellation fees. Some cancellation fees are huge. Generally, that shouldn't be an issue if
you pay your bills on time. If you move, it seems to be the norm that you won't have to pay a cancellation fee if you provide proof of the move.
Once you have chosen a plan (and possibly torn out a little hair in the process) check the company's terms of service. Per usual, it's a long
document. I've learned to skim it for certain facts:
- A cancellation fee will not apply if one provides proof of a move.
- The time frame allowed to change to another provider at the end of your term. The general allowance seems to be 14 days or less before the
expiration of your contract term for no cancellation fee to be charged.
- Stipulations regarding auto pay. Some companies will charge a customer $5+/month if they can't apply your charges directly to a credit card
or to a bank draft. Some won't allow you to sign up for the plan without auto payment. This stipulation is usually found on the EFL, too.
- I usually look at a company's rating based on reviews, too. Truthfully, there are very few companies with stellar ratings from customers. I read
some of the complaints to determine if I think they are a bad risk. Generally, I think most customers are unhappy for one of two reasons; they
either didn't understand the pricing or they didn't pay their bill on time. I've been changing electric companies on a regular basis for the past
several years and never had an issue with any of the companies.
How to Enroll
One should always enroll in their plan of choice through the web site where the plan was listed. Enrollment through PTC is free; TPG charges $10.
TPG offers a lot of support information in their FAQ and TIPS sections. Have your driver's license and either a credit card or bank information
available in case it's required during your initial enrollment.
The switch has been almost instantaneous in my experience. (See "Right of Recission" below.)
Right of Rescission
Customers have three business days in which to rescind their switch to a new provider/plan without incurring a penalty. Once a switch has occurred,
a customer should receive confirmations from their new electric provider, their previous provider, and from the Electric Reliability Council of
Texas (ERCOT). This is to protect consumers from unscrupulous providers who switch customers to a new provider without their knowledge or consent.
EFL and TOS
Customers should always look at the EFL (Energy Facts Label) and TOS (Terms of Service) that detail the terms of their contract. Attention should
be given to special terms and payment stipulations as some plans require their customers to receive statements electronically or to pay their
account by bank draft or credit card debit. Failure to follow these stipulations will cost the customer extra money. A customer should decide how
they want to pay their account before starting the enrollment process and have their bank or credit card information available during the process.
Make a note of when the contract will expire and start shopping for a new plan a few weeks prior to the expiration date. (One's electric provider
should send the customer a notice when their contract term is about to expire. This usually occurs about 30 days in advance and they may also notify
the customer of what plans will be available to them at that time.) Shopping too far in advance can waste one's time since pricing often changes.
You can change plans anytime within 14 days prior to the contract expiration date without being charged a termination fee. If one does not enroll
in a new plan prior to the plan's expiration date, their provider will enroll the customer in their month-to-month plan, which is rarely economical.
A customer may change from a month-to-month plan to a fixed term plan at any time with no penalty.
Unless one is prepared to pay a termination fee, a change of provider/plan should never occur more than 14 days before the end of a contract term.
If a customer moves and provides proof of the move, the termination fee should be waived. If one enrolls in a new plan no more than 14 days prior to
the end of a contract AND
allows the switch to occur at the company's discretion, no fee will be charged for the switch. The switch to a
new provider and plan usually occurs within 24 - 48 hours of when the enrollment is processed. However, if one specifies a day for the switch to
occur, a fee will likely be incurred.