Texas Deregulation of Electric Power
The state of Texas voted to deregulate the consumer energy industry in 2002. As a result, 85% of Texas electrical power consumers can choose their electricity service from a variety of retail electric providers (REPs), including the incumbent utility. Oncor owns and maintains the local power lines (and is the company to call in the event of a power outage) and is not subject to deregulation. Oncor works with the retail providers to sell its energy, and the local providers maintain your billing records and accounts.
Power To Choose.Org
In Round Rock, residents have the Power to Choose their retail electric energy provider, and that’s actually the name of the website: http://www.powertochoose.org/ Don’t be fooled by similarly named websites. Power to Choose is the only official and unbiased electric choice website provided by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, a state agency. This website is available to all electric providers to list their offers for free. Compare offers and choose the electric plan that’s right for you. We highly recommend visiting the website, but if you don’t have Internet access, call 866-797-4839 for help selecting a plan.
While Power to Choose is very informative, all the various offers from the providers can be quite confusing. You’ll definitely need a calculator and know some of the basics about how much electricity your home uses each month. Try to narrow your choices down to four or five plans that interest you. Then click “Fact Sheet” and “Terms of Service” to read the fine print. Most of the fixed rate plans guarantee a stable low rate, but have significant early termination fees. With variable rates, you’re subject to possible market volatility.
Negotiate a Better Deal
Yes, you can negotiate! If you have narrowed your choices down to one or two providers, go ahead and call them in person before you sign a contract. Tell them which plan you like. Tell them you are considering other companies. Ask them if they can do any better. Many providers have plans that are not advertised publicly so it is worth calling and asking about it.
Remember that no matter who you choose to be your local provider, Oncor is the company that generates a lot of the power, distributes all the power, and owns all the power lines in Round Rock. You’re essentially just choosing a billing plan, but you do have the option to indicate how much of your power you would like to purchase from renewable sources. (You can think of Oncor has the wholesaler.)
Another name you may hear in the local or state news is ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Most of the United States operates on just two unified power grids (Eastern and Western). ERCOT manages the flow of electric power to 24 million Texas customers — representing about 90% of the state’s electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and 570+ generation units. It also performs financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers retail switching for 7 million premises in competitive choice areas. ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation.