- Electric Deregulation
- Shopping for a New Electric Provider
- Changing Electric Providers
- Electricity Provider Switching Process
- Billing and Service
What is electric customer choice?
Since 2002, most Texans have had the power to choose the company that provides their electricity. Deregulation essentially unbundled the utility companies by separating the delivery of electricity (wires and poles) from the generation of electricity. This allows you to shop for rates and select your electricity provider.
Do all Texas customers have electric choice?
The Texas Legislature mandated that only investor-owned utilities in the ERCOT power grid be required to offer electric choice. Municipal electric companies and electric cooperatives were not required to deregulate. Currently, customers in the CenterPoint, Oncor, AEP Texas Central, AEP Texas North, TNMP, Sharyland, and Nueces Electric Cooperative service areas have customer choice.
What is ERCOT?
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is the power grid operator and manages the flow of electricity originating from 550 generation units and across more than 43,000 miles of transmission lines. ERCOT serves about 90% of the electrical load in the state of Texas.
Which investor-owned utilities are not in ERCOT?
Entergy Texas, El Paso Electric, Southwestern Electric Power Company, and Southwestern Public Service (Xcel Energy) are not located within the ERCOT power grid. Customers served by these utilities do not have retail electric choice available to them at this time.
What is a Retail Electric Provider?
A Retail Electric Provider, also known as a REP, is company authorized by the Public Utility Commission of Texas to provide electricity to consumers like you.
What is the role of a Retail Electric Provider?
Electric providers purchase electricity on the wholesale market and sell it to you. Retail electric providers are responsible for billing you for your electric usage and the utility delivery charges.
What is a Transmission and Distribution Utility (TDU)?
A Transmission and Distribution Utility is the company that delivers electricity to you regardless of which retail electric provider is selling the electricity. Also referred to as a Transmission and Distribution Service Provider (TDSP), these companies are regulated by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
What is the role of a TDU?
Transmission and Distribution Utilities are responsible for reading electric meters, responding to service interruptions, and maintaining the wires and poles to ensure reliable electricity delivery.
Does the reliability of my service depend on which retail electric provider I choose?
No. The reliability of service is the responsibility of the Transmission and Distribution Utility (TDU). The Public Utility Commission of Texas regulates TDUs and requires that they provide the same quality of service without consideration of which retail electric provider you choose.
Shopping for a New Electric Provider
What is a fixed rate or fixed price plan?
These plans protect the customer from market price changes during the term of their agreement. The Electricity Facts Label (EFL) for each plan will identify any circumstances where the price may change during the contract term. Typically, these changes are limited to regulatory, ERCOT, and TDU tariff changes.
What is a variable rate plan?
If you do not want to commit to a specific contract term, then a variable rate plan may be the best option for you. Your monthly electricity rate will vary but it allows you keep your options open. You can always switch over to a fixed price plan later if you want to do so.
What is a time-of-use plan?
Time-of-use plans have different rates for different times of the day or days of the week. Some of the “free nights” and “free Saturdays” plans are examples of time-of-use electricity pricing plans. These plans rely upon smart meter technology to identify customer usage in the various time periods.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is an advanced electric meter that records and stores your electrical usage in 15-minute intervals and communicates that information back to your TDU. Unlike traditional electric meters that only measure total consumption, smart meters show when the energy was consumed.
What is renewable or green energy?
Renewable or green energy generation includes wind, solar, biomass, hydro, geothermal, and other environmentally friendly sources. Most Texas renewable energy plans are backed by wind generation. The good news is that choosing green energy is not as expensive as it used to be.
Changing Electric Providers
What information do I need to have available during the enrollment process?
While most retail electric providers just need your address, it is helpful to have your ESI ID handy. This number can is usually found on the billing statement from your current energy provider. The ESI ID is not shown on your electric meter.
What is an ESI ID?
ESI ID stands for Electric Service Identifier ID. It is a unique identifier assigned to a point of delivery. For residential customers, the ESI ID is assigned to their premise (home or apartment). This is not the same as meter number and, in fact, the TDU can change or replace the meter for your residence and the ESI ID will remain the same. The ESI ID provides a way of tracking usage data and information such as which retail electric provider is currently serving your residence.
What is the Electricity Facts Label (EFL)?
The Electricity Facts Label (EFL) provides you with standardized information on the prices, fees, charges, contract terms, and the renewable energy content of a retail electric plan. The EFL allows you to make an apples-to-apples comparison of electricity plans.
What is the Terms of Service Agreement?
The Terms of Service (TOS) agreement lists fees, payment options and other important provisions that outline your contractual relationship with your retail electric provider.
What is the Your Right as a Customer document?
The Your Rights as a Customer (YRAC) document explains customer protections mandated by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
Is there a charge to change electricity providers?
There is no charge to change electricity providers unless you request a specific switch date or break your contract with your current energy provider.
Will I have to pay a deposit to begin service?
Deposit requirements vary by provider depending on your payment history and credit score.
Will my service be interrupted by switching electricity providers?
No. Switching providers does not interrupt your service. You will keep your same meter and receive the same service from your Transmission and Distribution Utility without any gaps or interruptions.
Is there a fee if I am setting up service at a new address?
The utility will charge a move-in fee to establish electric service in your name at a new address. Your retail electric provider will include fee on your first bill.
Can I change my mind after enrolling with a new provider?
You can cancel your request for service without penalty within three business days of the time you receive your Terms of Service agreement. After that time, your provider may impose a cancellation fee per the Electricity Facts Label and the Terms of Service.
Electricity Provider Switching Process
How soon will I be switched to my new electricity provider?
After enrolling with your new Retail Electricity Provider (REP), you will receive a mailer from ERCOT confirming the switch. You have three business days from that time to change your mind and stop the switch. Otherwise, the switch to your new provider will take place within seven business days. You will be billed by your new REP on the following billing cycle.
Do I need to notify my current electricity provider that I am switching service?
No. They will be notified electronically by ERCOT once a switch request is received from your new energy provider. Keep in mind that you are still responsible for any amounts owed for service received until the switch takes place. You may incur a cancellation fee if you end your agreement with your current electricity provider before the end of the contract term.
What if I receive a switch mailer from ERCOT and I did not switch providers?
Fortunately, intentional slamming is a rare occurrence in the deregulated Texas market. First, make sure that nobody else at your residence initiated a switch to the new electricity provider (this actually happens a lot!). Next, follow the instructions on the ERCOT mailer and contact the new provider. If you still cannot get things sorted out, contact the Texas PUC at 1-888-782-8477.
What is a switch-hold?
Your current retail electric provider may apply a switch-hold to your account if you enter into certain payment arrangements and fail to fulfill the terms of your agreement. This means that you will not be able to switch to another provider until you have satisfied the terms of your payment arrangement with your current retail electric provider.
Billing and Service
Where do I direct my billing questions?
You should contact your retail electric provider for all billing questions. Make every effort to resolve any disputes with your REP. If a dispute cannot be resolved, you can contact the Public Utility Commission of Texas Customer Hotline at 888-782-8477.
What happens if I have an electrical outage or an electrical emergency?
You should call your Transmission and Distribution Utility to report outages or electrical emergencies such as downed power lines. Check your billing statement for the phone number. You can also call your retail electric provider and they will either give you the number or transfer you to the utility.
What is a kilowatt-hour or kWh?
This is the billing unit for energy consumption. It represents 1000 watts being used for a period of one hour.
What is the energy charge?
This is the charge from your retail electric provider for the electricity you used during the billing cycle in accordance with the Electricity Facts Label for the plan in which you enrolled.
What are TDU delivery charges?
These charges cover the cost of moving electricity from the power plant to your home. Your retail electric provider serves as the billing agent for the Transmission and Distribution Utility and does not mark-up these costs.
What is the PUC Assessment Fee?
This is a fee mandated by the Public Utility Commission of Texas to cover the cost of administering the customer choice program.
What is the Miscellaneous Gross Receipts Tax Reimbursement?
This is a fee assessed by the State of Texas on retail electric providers serving customers in an incorporated city or town with a population greater than 1000 people.
What if I cannot pay my electric bill or if I need additional time to pay my bill?
Contact your retail electric provider and advise them of your situation. You may be able to work out a payment plan or an extension with them.
What is a minimum usage fee?
Some retail electric plans have a minimum usage fee if you use less than a given amount of electricity during a billing cycle. These fees, if any, and their usage levels will be described in the Electricity Facts Label (EFL) for that plan.
What happens if I stay with my current electricity provider past my contract end date?
Consult the Terms of Service agreement provided by your retail electric provider. Typically, you will default to a month-to-month variable rate plan.
How do I find out when my current electric service agreement ends?
This information is sometimes provided on the billing statement you receive from your energy provider. You can also contact your retail electric provider to verify the date. Retail electric providers are also required to provide you with a Notice of Contract Expiration between 30 and 60 days of your contract expiration date.