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How Have City Wide Electricity Grids Evolved

Electric companies have been supplying electricity to homes and businesses since the late 1800s. However, in those early days, there wasn’t much of an organized electrical grid as there is today. It was a non-centralized mess of wires overlapping each other. Upstart electrical companies came and went, leaving discarded wires in their wake. Plus, electricity wasn’t as readily accessible to the general public — electricity was typically for business owners and the wealthy. Two different types of energy systems, DC (direct current) and AC (alternating current) were competing to offer their electrical systems to cities.

The AC system, invented by Nikola Tesla, allowed high voltages to go across long distances. This system transformed high voltage to a lower voltage, making it a better choice for customers to use. This opened the door for utility companies to build electricity grids over larger areas.

An Interconnected Electricity Grid

Telegraphs and light bulbs lead to telephones, radios, televisions and so on. The demand for electricity started to grow steadily by the time the 1950s rolled around. Luckily, by this time, electricity providers were getting better organized. Electricity grids were interconnected, which allowed for greater access to electricity, and also made electricity service more affordable to the masses. It was also during this time that America’s centralized electrical grid improved. Over time, the electric grid has evolved to become the interconnected engineering marvel that it is today. The digital age has ushered in an instantly connected world, increasing the demand for electricity.

So what makes up the electricity grid? There are three main grids in the U.S. Two grids, the western and eastern interconnections, are connected to the Canadian grids. The third grid, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) serves most of Texas. The electricity grid includes four major components. First are the sources that generate electricity, which include fossil fuels like natural gas, coal and petroleum, as well as other sources like renewable energy. Fossil fuels make the most significant percentage. Fossil fuels are limited, and the steam and gas turbines that burn these fuels to generate electricity cause pollution. Cleaner electricity generators include hydroelectric dams, nuclear power, wind turbines and solar panels. Utility companies own the electricity generators, and they vary significantly in how they’re distributed and used on the power grid. Many customers in Texas can choose whether they want to receive electricity from fossil fuels or a renewable energy source.

The second major component of the electricity grid is transmission lines. These lines can be installed overhead or underground, and these highly interconnected lines carry high-voltage electricity. They connect electricity generators to customers over long distances. The voltages transmitted are much higher than what you’ll use in your home or business, so they’re converted back to a lower voltage for use across the three main grids in the U.S. The TDU (Transmission Distribution Utility) maintains the power lines and responds to outages.

The third component on the electrical system is the distribution network. At this point, the transmission lines have reached the transformer. Electricity is transmitted to a network of local electricity distribution lines and passed through transformers in a step-down process to lower the voltage. The subtransmission customer receives a higher voltage (26 kV and 69 kV) and lowers the voltage to the primary customers (regional distribution substations), which in turn lowers the voltage to120V and 240V for secondary customers (homes, businesses, schools, etc.)

Where the transmission grid ends is where the electricity reaches the consumer. This is the point where people use electricity in their daily lives.

Electric Grid Evolving Like Modern Cities

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas. Today’s modern cities are transforming the way America’s electric grid works. Modern cities are embracing new technologies, including the way electricity is generated, stored and transferred.

Spurred on by the energy crisis of the 1970s, Congress opened the door for competition in electricity production, allowing renewable energy to enter the marketplace. It has taken decades, but the shift from coal to cleaner energy sources is on the rise. In fact, the future of coal in the electrical grid is bleak. This is good news for cities choking on pollution due to coal-burning energy plants. Wind and solar energy are clean. The cost to make electricity from wind and solar is declining rapidly. Consumers in cities and rural areas are embracing renewable energy too. You’ll find solar panels installed not just on the rooftops of homes, but also you’ll also see them used for commercial and industrial complexes.

Alternatives like renewable energy sources are evolving America’s electrical grid. The challenge many experts are facing is how to make the stream of renewable energy power steadier. After all, there isn’t always a stream of constant wind or solar power. And on days where there is a continuous stream, the electricity grid can’t store all the energy, creating a surge of power that creates outages. We are continually evolving, and the future of the modern electricity grid is a work in progress.

Vault Electricity makes it easy for consumers in Texas to choose their electricity provider. We work with trusted electricity providers, from traditional to green energy providers, and we display electricity rates in real time.

Gexa 3-Day Weekend Plan, What You Need to Know

It seems that most Texas electric companies are now offering time-of-use plans that offer different electricity rates depending on when you use your electricity.  The concept was first popularized in Texas by TXU Energy with their Free Nights plan. TXU has since offered several variations on the theme, including their most recent TXU Free Pass plan which offers free electricity on the 7 days each month when your power usage is greatest.  Gexa Energy is now advertising their own version of a free electricity plan with the Gexa Energy 3 Day Weekend Plan.  So how does this plan compare to the competition?

How does the Gexa 3-Day Weekend plan work?

Compared to other similar plans, the Free 3-Day Weekends plan is simple.  All of your electricity usage for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of every week is free.  This means that there is no energy charge from Gexa or pass through fees from your distribution utility (Oncor in Dallas or Centerpoint in Houston) for weekend usage.  Technically, the free period runs from 12:00 a.m. Friday to 12:00 a.m. Sunday

What is the electricity rate on the Gexa 3 Day Weekend plan?

As with any such plan, the electricity rate for the non-free portion of the plan must be high enough to still make the plan profitable for the electric company.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t sell the plan.  If you live in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington or anywhere in the Oncor delivery area, you will be paying an energy charge of 16.6¢ per kWh on Monday – Thursday.  In addition to this, you will pay pass-through charges from the utility company that delivers the power in your area (Oncor).  This will add another 3.135¢ per kWh, bringing your total electricity rate up to 19.7¢ per kWh during these periods.  You will also be charged a monthly fee of $9.95 from Gexa and $3.42 from Oncor.

Gexa advertises an average rate of 12.6¢ per kWh for 1,000kWh of electricity.  This assumes that 43% of your energy usage occurs Friday-Sunday.

Gexa 3-day weekend ETF

Note: The electricity rates mentioned above are for the Dallas/Fort Worth Area as of 4/14/2019.  Enter your zip  code above to see all of the current rates for Gexa and other electric companies for your area.

Is the Gexa 3 Day Weekend Plan a good deal?

This very much depends on how you use your electricity and if you are willing to shift your activities to make the best use of the free electricity periods.  The 12.6¢ per kWh for 1,000kWh is more expensive than most other plans currently available from Gexa and other electricity providers.  If you are up for the challenge, however, you can try to cram as much of your electricity usage as possible into the weekend period.  You can do your laundry on the weekends but, with summer approaching in Texas, air conditioning will be the main driver of your electricity bill.  If you are mostly away from home during the week, you could set your thermostat higher when you are away from home.

How does the Gexa 3 Day Weekend Plan Compare to TXU’s Free Pass Plan?

The two plans are pretty similar.  The electricity rate during the non-free periods are almost identical.  However, the Gexa plan offers 12 to 13 free days of electricity per month compared to the 7 free days offered in the TXU Free Pass Plan.  Under the TXU plan, the free days are guaranteed to be your highest usage days.  But these are likely to be weekend days anyway.  The advertised average electricity rates at 1000 kWhs are cheaper for the Gexa 3 Day Weekend Plan than the TXU’s Free Pass 12 Plan.

What else do I need to know about the Gexa 3-Day Weekend Plan?

  • The plan comes with a 12 month contract
  • The cancelation fee for the plan is $150
  • Gexa offers a 60 day guarantee.  If you are not happy with the plan, Gexa will switch you to another one of their plans and waive the cancelation fee.

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