Consumer access to electricity prices and choices

During the November 30, 2011 media call to announce the release of the 2011 ABACCUS report, the chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas explained that Texas had been a leader in the development of a Web site to allow residential consumers to compare prices and options in the competitive retail electricity market in Texas. Chairman Nelson encouraged everyone to visit “PowerToChoose.org” to see recent improvements.

Texas is one of a handful of states that has determined that among the most important tools available to residential consumers is easy access to good pricing information. Let’s face it: after a century of prices set by a governmental agency, it can be daunting for the typical consumer to believe that you can buy electricity the way you select a gasoline brand, choose the octane level, or pick a favorite gas station. We have made those fuel choices for a century, but until recently we have lacked the choices that power our homes. Moving from the regulated electric utility tariff to a market price from a competitive energy supplier may be daunting to some people.

These states offer a Web site that facilitates price comparisons. Try them and comment on which ones you prefer and why!

It does not take long on these sites to understand the range of service and pricing options available. In Texas, for example, there are about 250 choices from nearly 40 companies. The choices are organized by type with tabs to allow a filtering of the display: fixed pricing (3 to 60 months of price protection), variable offers (month-to-month pricing), indexed pricing (e.g., electric price linked to another price such as natural gas), promotions (discounted months or other option) and prepaid energy. (Read blog entries about prepayment/pricing.) A drop-down option allows filtering on renewable energy content for the other choices. (For example, 61 of the 214 fixed price offers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are 100% renewable energy content; however, none of the ten prepaid offers is 100% renewable energy content.)

Read about the ABACCUS report release.

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