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How to Shop for Electricity

How to Shop for Electricity

Shopping for electricity may seem to be a strange phrase, but there are many states, including most of Texas, that allow you to choose your electricity provider. There are many electric companies with varying energy rates for you to consider. Taking the time to look at each of the many Texas electricity providers and then compare electricity rates can help you find the best rate for your home or business.

How to Find the Right Company

The list of energy companies throughout Texas is a long one. Most of the states can choose their electricity provider, so there are several companies to choose from. Each has different plans and rates that change regularly, so it can be difficult to pinpoint which one would be best for you. There are a few features that you may be interested in that can influence your decision.

  • Green Energy: Many companies utilize some form of green energy, but there are Texas electricity providers that solely function on wind or solar energy sources
  • Charity: Several Texas electric companies donate a percentage of their earnings or make an annual donation directly to the charity
  • Technology: Some companies offer easy to use apps or smart technology such as Wi-Fi integrated thermostats to help lower your energy bills
  • Rewards Programs: Electrical companies offer incentives to pay your bills on time or maintain a long-term account
  • Custom Plans: Many energy companies will work with you to create a plan that suits your needs
  • No Credit Check: A few companies do not require the standard soft credit check that comes with most plans
  • No Deposit Electricity: Some providers do not ask for a deposit before turning on your power

How to Choose the Best Provider

One factor you do not need to consider is the quality of the electricity itself. The actual electricity is delivered to your home or business by a few companies called Transmission Distribution Utilities (TDU). They are the ones that will reconnect your power after the storms and repair the damaged pole on the street corner. You will see a standard fee on your electricity bill from these companies that is not dependent on which energy provider you choose.

With the quality of service out of the way, the real search comes down to price. You want to find cheap electricity, so the next step will be to compare Texas electricity rates. Vault Energy Solutions has done the hard work for you. Every company has been vetted and is clearly described on the website. You will not find any hidden fees or stipulations since every factor has been included in the search results. You can type in your zip code and find a list of Texas electric companies in your area and the total rate they charge for electricity.

Each month, electricity providers multiply your total kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage of energy by their rate to calculate your bill. Your search results of each company will show their kWh rate plus any additional fees. You can look at your current bill to see the average amount of electricity you use each month to get an idea of what you would be paying per month.

Why Shop Around?

Electricity is a necessity that your home and business rely on to operate each day. You have to pay for electricity, but when living in Texas, you have the choice to pay less, go green, or support a local charity. Take the time to compare electricity rates and companies and find one that fits your needs.

Joining a National Grid — Is It Ever in The Cards for Texas?

Texas’ recent large-scale disaster at the hands of Winter Storm Uri stirred up a good deal of curiosity about the state’s future. Will Texas ever rejoin the national grid?

Today, the issue of tying into the national grid is a divisive subject. For some, it runs contrary to the very essence of Texas’ independent spirit and means more federal regulations, less competitive pricing, and a sacrifice of values. To proponents of the idea, it would mean greater reliability in the event of future catastrophic weather events, more advancements in future national environmental initiatives, and other advantages.

For many, the idea of at least being able to draw on outside power more reliably — the state has just five bridges to external power sources, three of which are to Mexico — would mean that future disasters like the one that took place in February 2021 could be avoided. The event led to increased skepticism around the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which directly oversees nearly all of the state’s electric load.

It wasn’t just the outages that raised the specter of unification. During the crisis, Texas electric companies’ energy rates skyrocketed to preposterous levels, with some customers receiving electric bills for tens of thousands of dollars for a week’s worth of electricity. It turns out that Texas electricity rates were vulnerable to such a disturbance thanks to the presence of an electricity providers who passed wholesale electricity rates directly on to customers, which despite providing cheap electricity during times of low demand, could not prevent astronomical price hikes during the winter storm when demand soared and supply wilted. This provider is no longer in business in the Texas market.

Proponents argue that the future of the U.S. power grid is one of complete interconnection, in which an end-to-end grid powered largely by green energy provides power wherever it is needed. By remaining isolated, these proponents argue that Texas will continue to impede such progress.

To those opposed to joining the national grid, it comes down to money and independence. Texas electricity providers operate on a grid that does not, at least in the eyes of the law, cross state borders. That makes it exempt from the Federal Power Act’s regulations, which exercises oversight over energy that crosses state lines. This could mean higher electricity rates and greater regulatory pressure on Texas electricity providers.

Opponents also argue that there isn’t compelling evidence that being connected to the larger grid could have prevented the blackouts, as other areas were experiencing the same problem.

However, several days with no electricity, heat, or in many cases, potable water has left a deep imprint on many Texans. With the coming $2 trillion infrastructure bill, it will be interesting to see what position Texas takes for the future.

If you are looking for no-deposit electricity, cheap energy rates, or just the ability to compare electricity rates, look no further than Vault Electricity. We make it easy to find the best cheap electricity available anywhere in Texas.

Texas Senate Passes Electricity Reform Bill

It took nearly five hours of debate, but on Tuesday, March 30, the Texas Senate finally signed off on a slate of legislation known as Senate Bill 3. Drawn up in response to the devastating power outages that left much of the state freezing during the worst winter storm in the state’s recent memory, this sweeping overhaul of the electric grid received unanimous support in the Texas Senate before advancing to the House.

According to top lawmakers in the Senate, SB 3 fixes many of the problems exposed by the storm. Among its mandates is that transmission lines, power generators, pipelines, and natural gas facilities receive weatherization upgrades to handle extreme weather. Many were unable to operate when temperatures reached the single digits.

What Caused This to Happen?

Predictably, the period in which this bill was formed has been rife with finger-pointing. First came a wave of blame against renewables, which many decried as responsible for the calamity. The two culprits were the intensity of the cold — which affected all fuel types equally — and the fact that Texas has its own isolated power grid and cannot receive help from other states during outages.

Those in the natural gas industry have pointed out that the power outages were responsible for the natural gas shortage, which caused more power outages to occur. They argue that weatherization would not correct the root of the issue — a point the Senate Bill addresses by delegating the decision around natural gas to the Texas Railroad Commission (which oversees the oil and natural gas industry in Texas).

What Does the Bill Contain?

The bill lacks any detail on how the required upgrades will be funded. Because of the high expenses involved in retrofitting power plants with weatherization equipment, it remains to be seen how energy providers will incorporate the various types of upgrades into their business models.

One area of improvement is the banning of all indexed retail electric plans. Customers with such plans purchased electricity from Texas electric companies at wholesale prices, a strategy that delivered cheap electricity during normal times but that, during the cold spell, led to astronomical electricity rates. Some bills soared as high as $15,000 or more over a week. One of these electricity providers, Griddy, declared bankruptcy in mid-March.

Another portion of SB 3 mandates the creation of a statewide emergency alert system that would keep Texans abreast of future energy blackouts. It also calls for the formation of the Texas Energy Reliability Council (TERC) to coordinate electric companies, regulators, and natural gas facilities and providers to make sure gas distribution is reliable.

Lawmakers used the opportunity to make operations more expensive for renewable energy providers, which Senator Charles Schwertner of Georgetown called “unreliable” in a recent statement. While he claims that too many government subsidies for renewables have created an unfair market advantage for those energy sources, it should be noted that the government subsidizes fossil fuels to the tune of around $20 billion per year.

Will SB 3 Protect Cheap Texas Electricity Rates?

In summary, SB 3 addresses many of the core problems behind Winter Storm Uri’s devastating effects. Though many of the political maneuverings within it are thinly veiled, such is par for the course in any new legislation. It will be fascinating to follow the rollout of this bill and to see how energy companies react.

To compare electricity rates and energy rates from Texas electricity providers, visit Vault Electricity, where we make it easy to find the best electricity plan available.

Holiday Electricity Demand

Public Health Officials Encouraged Americans to Stay Home for Thanksgiving and Keep Things Small. How Did These Holiday Changes Affect Utility Rates?

On Nov. 26, 2020, Americans consumed roughly 46 million turkeys across the country. Most of these poor birds tip the scales at around 15 pounds, requiring at least three hours of cooking time, and nearly 8 kWh of electricity. Consider the additional sides and pies, and Thanksgiving electricity rates can shock consumers.

Holidays in 2020 looked a little different. Thanksgiving especially experienced significant changes this year, mainly due to fewer Americans traveling in response to spiking pandemic numbers across the country. Public health officials recommended smaller gatherings with immediate family members only; accordingly, the classic turkey dinner got adjusted, prompting many consumers to seek less hefty birds and cook smaller meals. Considering this, how did electricity rates pan out for Thanksgiving 2020?

The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports on consumer patterns in energy usage. Surprisingly, the electricity demand for Thanksgiving this year presented similar to, if not lower than that of previous years. On a typical day, American electricity demand spikes twice. In the morning, coffee pots brew, water heaters kick on for showers, and hairdryers get plugged in for a perfect blowout. At night, Netflix streams, dinners simmer, and dishwashers run. On Thanksgiving, this pattern flips — most of the electricity demand occurs in the morning when the bulk of the cooking occurs. Conversely, demand diminishes in the evening, as folks settle in for a quiet night with the family.

Social distancing and smaller meals did not affect this overall holiday pattern. Americans still woke early to cook their turkeys and settled down to digest and watch football later in the day. It seems as if COVID could not topple tradition — even if celebrations remained smaller than usual.

But, consider more. Heating and cooling systems represent the most energy-expensive utility in the household. With children home for the holidays and cold winter temperatures, many Americans splurge for extra comfort during Thanksgiving. The EIA reports that the period from Nov. 23 through Nov. 29, 2020, remained much warmer than usual; in fact, heating degree days stayed 13% lower than in 2019. Due to this unusual weather, Thanksgiving 2020 in New York City recorded the least electricity demand in five years. Milder than usual temperatures across the country spurred lower utility bills for most regions.

Floridians didn’t fare so well. During the week of Thanksgiving 2020 — Orlando, Florida, experienced temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Southern states rely on electric cooking (compared to higher natural gas use in the North). Due to these factors, electricity rates for Thanksgiving Day 2020 in Florida shot up to their highest in five years.

Weather patterns aside, Thanksgiving remained somewhat normal in 2020. Americans refuse to go cold turkey on their holidays, finding new and creative ways to celebrate even amidst the pandemic.

Americans Are Using Less Electricity

EIA Finds Monthly Electricity Rates Lower Across Most of the United States

The majority of states (38 to be exact) reported a decrease in electricity bills for 2019 (the last year for which data is available). Kansas bills dropped a whopping 9.2%, with New York, Missouri, and Ohio exceeding a 5% reduction.

Many factors contribute to utility costs for homeowners. Consequently, those variables cause electric bills to fluctuate year to year. The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) gathers data on U.S. energy use and prices and then analyzes those statistics each year to inform policy and the public. Their findings apply not only to those who love a detailed bar graph — anyone who has had a surprising utility bill can appreciate a comprehensive understanding of what influences the cost for power and what costs land on the individual consumer’s wallet.

Interestingly, the EIA reports that residential electric bills decreased in 2019.  Electric costs last year dipped almost 2% lower than in 2018 —  about $2 saved each month, from an average of a monthly bill of $117 to $115. Notably, this decrease results from consumer behavior, not an overwhelming reduction in the cost of electricity. The utility increased in price from 12.87 cents per kWh in 2018 to 13.01 cents per kWh in 2019. The EIA concludes that Americans have been using less electricity.

So what may have influenced consumer behavior? Consider the weather as a significant variable. Cooling degree days (days when air conditioning required) decreased by nearly 6%. Heating degree days increased, but only by 0.6%. Heating and cooling represent the most energy-hungry systems in the home, so relying on them for fewer days can dramatically affect average electricity consumption.

Appliances represent another major contributor to electricity in the home. However, long-term purchasing trends show the American consumer buys more energy-efficient household appliances, such as dishwashers, refrigerators, and washing machines. This pattern does not remain specific to 2019 but does explain last year’s lower electricity consumption. These “greener” devices report energy savings between 10% to 50% compared to similar models — and those savings optimize when replacing older appliances. Other purchases, such as LED bulbs, power strips, and smart thermostats, have also grown in popularity among consumers.

Comparing state to state gets a little tricky since one must consider the cost of fuel used to generate electricity. Certain regions around the country experience shifting prices due to the fuel type used to power their homes. New England, for example, depends on natural gas. New England — not near natural gas storage locations — relies on a pipeline. Hawaii depends on oil transported thousands of miles to its shores in the Pacific. Texas produces the most abundant crude oil, natural gas, and wind energy in the U.S. The type and access to fuel can heavily influence a region’s electric rates. And beyond the fuel itself, states and private utility companies may also add fees and taxes.

Overall, Americans have become more energy-savvy as they employ plenty of DIY tricks to reduce energy use at home. As 2020 comes to a close — luckily, it seems as if electricity trends may stay about the same. Americans can hopefully breathe a sigh of relief when holiday energy bills arrive.

How are Electricity Rates in Texas Determined?

Electricity Bills Change from Month to Month, State to State. What Factors Influence the Fluctuating Costs of Electricity Rates?

Like death and taxes, electric bills represent an unavoidable part of life for most Americans. Calculated simply, customers pay for the wattage used multiplied by the kWh cost. In the United States, one kWh costs on average $0.13. But, the electricity rates vary dramatically by state. The average consumer in Louisiana pays $0.09 per kWh, while the average Hawaiian customer doles out nearly $0.30 per kWh. In Texas, folks pay $0.12 on average. But even within the state of Texas, electricity rates can very wildly.  For example, in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area, Gexa Energy offers a plan for 5.6¢ per kWh.  In Houston the best rate available is 6.8¢ per kWh.

So, what gives? Who calculates the electricity rate? And what causes the price for power to change? In part, state regulations can dictate additional fees. But several variables have a role in determining the inevitable cost on the consumer.

Fuel

Electricity can be generated using different forms of energy, including fossil fuels such as gas and coal, or renewable fuels such as wind or solar power. All of these sources may contribute electricity to the overall regional grid — yet each corresponds to a different cost. One source reported renewable power at $0.04 to $0.06 per kWh and fossil fuels between $0.05 and $0.17 per kWh. But these costs change each year due to more efficient technologies.

Facilities

Beyond the fuel source itself, one must consider the cost of operating and maintaining the facilities to store fuel and generate power. These factors include construction costs, employee salaries, and safety mechanisms. These prices can range dramatically depending on the energy source. Wind turbines need specialty maintenance and continued care. Nuclear facilities undergo frequent inspections and part replacement and must ensure the safe shipping and storing of waste.

Distribution

After generating power, it must be distributed throughout the consumer network. Beyond the general construction of power lines and maintenance of this transmission system, companies must consider security and safety. Certain fuels must be transported throughout the country as well, including train networks for coal and pipelines for natural gas.

Regional Weather

Weather symbolizes one of the most influential factors in determining electricity cost. Extreme cold or heat leads to subsequent heating or air conditioning demands — the number one culprit in electricity consumption. Increased demand leads to higher utility rates. Conversely, weather events such as frequent high winds can make wind turbines more effective and lower electric costs. Regions with more extreme weather events might lose power more frequently and require additional investment for damages.

So, after adding the regulatory fees, the facility construction, the cost of fuel and its transport, consumer demand, and the price for repairs to the system, one can tally the bottom line on that electric bill.

Competition

Competition is another important factor in the pricing of electricity.  Electric companies in Texas and other deregulated markets must compete with each other to offer the cheapest electricity rates in order to win customers.  The puts the responsibility on consumers to keep their bills lower by shopping for electricity and comparing rates to find the best deal for your situation.  Vaultelectricity.com was created in the early days of deregulated electricity in Texas to put all the best options in one place to make comparing and selecting an electricity plan easier.

 

Energy Rates This Holiday Season Should Be Similar to Last Year’s

With winter comes higher energy bills. Several factors contribute to this trend. Typically, from November to March, Americans perform a delicate dance between saving money and keeping pipes from freezing. For most homeowners, the main culprits of energy use in winter constitute furnaces and water heaters, especially for regions that experience colder seasonal temperatures. But the line-up doesn’t end there — one cannot ignore refrigerators, freezers, and ovens. These appliances work overtime during the season, especially with family in town and large meals to prepare. Then, throw in the power required for Christmas lights and Rudolph’s nose. Hopefully, homeowners can avoid surprising utility bills this holiday season. While unpredictability has defined the year 2020, experts project that — energy bills at least — will remain like those of 2019.

Costs explained

Oil, electricity, and natural gas predominantly heat American homes. Most of the Northern states rely on natural gas, while residents in the South (including Texas) depend on electricity. Only a few New England states employ heating oil. Worldwide, fuel costs have remained roughly the same the past few years; heating oil has dropped over fifty cents per gallon since 2018. As supply increases, demand decreases — or so states a basic tenet of Economics 101. Natural gas production has increased steadily over the last fifteen years, and prices have declined accordingly. Electricity rates have increased a touch, nationwide displaying a small nine cents per kWh increase from 2019.  Electricity rates in Texas have declined over that time. Overall, prices should remain relatively stable for winter 2020. Weather can dramatically alter these projections, however, especially if temperatures drop lower than expected and demand for heating increases.

Some extenuating circumstances should be considered. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many Americans spend more time at home, especially for work and school. This suggests higher use of lighting, heating, and power — an unavoidable consequence of the times. Nonetheless, fuel costs have been stunted by low demand from major industries as companies have curtailed traveling and typical functioning within the traditional office environment. Many schools have closed. These big energy users do not currently rely on the grid. As mentioned above — less demand dictates more supply available — leading to cheap energy prices. All in all, Americans have struggled to pay rent and utility bills throughout 2020, and the stability in projected energy rates this winter provides some welcomed relief.

Tips for saving

Furthermore, individuals can implement some energy-saving habits and capitalize on static energy bills. For example, consider cooking larger meals or several meals at once. When the oven is turned off, leave the door open to maximize heating in the kitchen. Only run the dishwasher or laundry machine when fully loaded. Also, remember to unplug holiday lighting before going to sleep. Televisions, laptops, and entertainment systems continue using power even when turned off. Energy-conscious individuals may want to unplug these items when not in use. For those with extra means, purchasing new, more efficient appliances can make a major dent in energy spending long-term — especially for household amenities older than twenty years. A wise consumer should also consider insulation strategies for older homes to help mitigate heating costs.

Saving opportunities don’t have to be difficult or expensive. Individuals can reach out to local electricity companies and discuss strategies and programs they offer. Consumers can leverage services to help compare electricity rates in their region as well. While 2020 has not been easy, customers will gladly receive some good news in the form of energy costs.