Increased Reports Of Scammers Posing As Your Electricity Provider
**ALERT**THERE HAS RECENTLY BEEN A HUGE JUMP IN THE NUMBER OF REPORTS OF SCAMMERS POSING AS YOUR ELECTRICITY PROVIDER CALLING TO GET YOUR CREDIT/DEBIT CARD INFORMATION.
The scam artists are pretending to be from your electric company, and are threatening to disconnect your electricity if you do not pay your bill immediately over the phone.
Many of these scammers even have the ability to fool your phone’s Caller ID, so that the electricity provider’s name shows up on the phone’s screen.
The thieves are targeting residential and commercial electricity users across the country, but seem to be focusing on the states that are currently experiencing elevated temperatures.
The best action to take is to disconnect the call, then call your energy provider using the phone number printed on a recently electric bill and inform them of the scam attempt.
Comparing the TXU SecureSaver Plan to Other Providers
TXU’s newest commercial promotes something they call the TXU SecureSaver Plan. Taking a closer look at the details of the plan shows it suffers from the same problem as most TXU plans – the rates are just too high.
The plan promises to protect you from rate increases and save you 20%. But 20% of what? The reality is that TXU’s rates are so high that, even after a 20% discount, you are still paying way more than most other providers charge.
The Secure Saver plan is a 24 month plan. At the time of this writing, the rate for the plan in the Dallas area is 13.9¢ per kwh (assuming you use 2,000 kWh per month). The 20% discount promised in the advertising only applies to the first 12 months. The rate is 11.2¢ per kwh in the first year after the discount.
In the second year the rate would shoot back up to 13.9¢ per kwh. Assuming you use roughly the same amount of electricity the second year as the first, that makes your average rate for the 24 months 12.6¢ per kwh.
TriEagle Energy is currently offering a 24 month plan in Dallas for 9.0¢ per kwh. That’s substantially better than even the 20% discounted first year of the TXU plan. Bounce Energy is also offering a 24 month plan for just 9.6¢ per kwh.
The rates are slightly different but the results are the same in the other parts of the state, including the Houston area. TXU’s plan is more expensive than almost any other provider.
Protection Against Rate Spikes?
If it’s protection against price increases you want, you could even consider the current 36 month plan being offered by TriEagle for the same 9.0¢ per kwh as their 24 month plan.
When shopping for electricity in Texas it’s easy to get lost in all the numbers. But here is the bottom line:
Over the 24 months of the plan, TXU’s SecureSaver Plan would cost you $1,704 more than other providers.
Note: Electricity rates in Texas change often. The rates in this piece are as of 4/29/2013. To get up to the minute rates for your city enter your zip code in the search box above.
If you’ve turned on a television lately, chances are you have seen the new TXU Cash Rewards commercial. If you switch to TXU, you will get “up to” 5% in cash rewards. Once a year you will receive a prepaid debit card with a value totaling “up to” 5% of what you paid TXU for electricity.
Unfortunately, as with the TXU Free Nights promotion, the TXU Energy Cash Rewards plan it’s not as good as it sounds.
So what’s the catch? There are several.
Let’s start with the two word phrase you may have missed in the commercial – “up to”. The cash bonus paid in the plan is up to 5%. The 5% rate only applies in year three of the 36 month contract you must sign. The reward in year one is only 3%. In year two is goes up to 4%. Only in the final year does the cash reward reach the full 5%.
Also, to make sure you stick around for the full three years, TXU adds a $295 cancelation fee to the small print. You can opt for a two year contract instead. But there the reward percentage starts at only 3% and only goes up to 4% in the second year.
Rates Are Too High
The big problem with TXU’s new plan is that it is unbelievably expensive. The base rate on the plan is so much more expensive than other providers that the 3-5% annual rebate is meaningless. In the end, consumers will pay far more for their electricity with TXU even when the rebate is factored in.
At the time of this writing, TXU is charging 12.4¢ per kwh for their 24 month plan and 13.5¢ per kwh for their 36 month plan! This is for the Dallas area. The Houston area is even higher.
Compare this to other electricity providers in Dallas and you will see that this rate is about 30% higher than other companies. TriEagle Energy is currently offering a rate of 9.2¢ per kwh on their 24 month plan. Bounce Energy is offering 9.9¢ per kwh on their 24 month plan. If you opt for a 12 month plan you could do as well as the 8.6¢ per kwh plan being offered by Frontier Utilities.
When compared to the TriEagle plan, a household who uses on average 2,000 kwh per month can expect to pay an extra $768 per year for the TXU plan. The TXU “reward” would total only $89 in the first year. Paying an extra $768 per year to get an $89 rebate is not a good deal.
In the end, the new Cash Rewards program is only more smoke and mirrors by TXU to try to cover up the fact that their rates are among the most expensive in Texas.
Keep A Close Eye On Electricity Supply In Texas This Summer
Another week, another warning about the capacity of the Texas electric grid. Speaking to state lawmakers earlier this month, Trip Doggett, President of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, once again served notice to Texans about the tenuous balance of supply and demand in the Texas grid.
Doggett reiterated that blackouts would only occur if there is a spike in demand or a sudden drop in power generation. If you think a sudden drop in generation seems unlikely, consider the fact that the Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, and Texas has over 300 miles of coastline with the Gulf of Mexico. On average, about 2 storms of tropical storm strength are greater hit the Texas coast any given year. These types of storms are certainly capable of disrupting electricity generation and distribution.
As for a spike in demand, record high temperatures would certainly accomplish that. Anyone who has been outside or seen a newscast any time in the last 18 months would certainly assign a high probability to the likelihood of Texas seeing more record temperatures this summer.
As it is, even without any extraordinary events on the generation side or demand side, things are going to be very tight for theTexaselectricity grid this summer. According to Doggett, ERCOT fully expects there will be a need to issue occasional Energy Emergency Alerts asking consumers to conserve during certain peak periods as well as procedures to turn off power to certain industrial users who have previously agreed to usage restrictions at peak times.
ERCOT likes to maintain a 13% margin of safety between expected peak demand and available supply. This so-called reserve margin is intended to cushion the state against the aforementioned demand spikes or supply disruptions. However, the state’s electricity producers have been stingy about investing in new projects to help maintain that safety margin. It’s partially because of this that officials have recently increased the state’s wholesale rate cap on electricity. A move that will likely result in higher electricity rates for consumers, even though we have the power to choose.
Are TXU Rates The Most Expensive Electricity Rates In Texas?
TXU Energy appears to be the most expensive electricity provider in Texas – at least we could not find any company with higher rates. Just a few months ago they said they were not willing to “chase prices” in order to gain/keep customers. It is that mentality that is pushing TXU’s parent company to the brink of bankruptcy. Energy Futures Holdings (EFH) purchased TXU in 2006, and TXU has lost money every quarter since. EFH debt now totals over $40 billion.
TXU Rates Compared to Other Electric Providers
Since the deregulation of our electricity market gave us the power to choose in 2002, Texas consumers have had the luxury of shopping around for their electricity. Before deregulation you didn’t have a choice of which electricity provider you used. You were assigned a provider based solely on your location. For example, if you lived in Dallas, you paid TXU for your electricity. Likewise, Houstonians received their monthly electric bill from Reliant. You had no choice and no voice in the matter.
Unfortunately, not everyone in TXU’s area is aware they now have a choice, and TXU takes advantage of that fact. TXU hopes that they are going to be the only electric company you look towards when needing electricity, so they just throw out a high rate quote and hope you don’t know any better.
But let’s look at the facts. Currently, TXU’s 12-month residential rates are 19.75% higher than the competition. And what about their 12-month Free Nights Plan? The Free Nights Plan is priced a staggering 43.20% higher than competing 12-month electricity plans. TXU’s month-to-month rate is 47.62% higher than competing introductory monthly rates.
It is no wonder TXU has 800,000 fewer customers than they did just a few years ago. With rates that are almost 50% higher than those of the completion, TXU is shedding customers at an increasing speed.
What You Need To Know About The TXU Free Nights Plan
TXU was the first major electric provider in Texas to offer time of day pricing to the public with their introduction of the TXU Free Nights program in Texas. The plan was an immediate hit with consumers. The company later created a Free Weekends plan under the banner of TXU Energy Right Time Pricing. By the summer of 2013 the company had enrolled nearly 100,000 customers in free electricity plans.
TXU’s latest time-of-day pricing plan is TXU Energy Free Mornings and Evenings. Under this plan customers get free electricity from 7 to 10a.m and 7 to 10p.m. The idea with the Free Mornings and Evenings plan and its predecessor, Free Nights program is to shift consumption away from the 3pm to 7pm window that sees the most stress put on the state’s electric grid.
Other providers have since introduced similar plans. They all attempt to address a major challenge that the Texas electric grid deals with. Capacity within a grid must be sufficient to cover peak demand periods. In Texas, peak demand is typically during the heat of the day when air-conditioners in homes and businesses are at maximum usage. Other times, particularly at night, most of that power generation capacity sits unused. This is why wholesale electricity prices plummet at night. Anything that spreads electricity usage out more reduces strain on the grid.
How much does the plan charge for electricity during peak hours?
During the non-free hours, as defined by the plan, there is a charge of 14.8 cents per kWh* if you live in the ONCOR service area which includes most of Dallas / Fort Worth and other parts of the state.
Predicting what your actual all-in rate will be can be tricky since much depends on not only how much electricity you use but what times of day you use it.
As a guideline, TXU’s Electricity Fact Label (EFL) dated June 3rd 2015 establishes an average price per kWh of 13.9 cents. This number makes the assumption that you use a total of 2,000 kWh hours and that 27.7 percentage of that usage falls within the morning and evening hours of free electricity as defined by the plan. Of course, your results may vary. If you can shift more of your usage into the morning and evening hours, you could lower your effective rate. With a greater percentage of usage during the non-free hours would result in a higher effective rate.
Is this plan right for you?
TXU’s time-of-day plans are best suited for consumers who don’t use a lot of their electricity during hours of peak demand or consumers who are willing to change their habits by shifting power intensive activities such as laundry and dishwashing to the hours designated in the plan as free.
Some recommendations TXU makes for getting the most out of the plan’s free hours:
Using timers to control the start time of major appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers
Making use of programmable thermostats
Charging portable devices during free hours
Running pool pumps during free hours
TXU also offers tools using your smart meter to help you analyze your electricity usage and identify ways to lower your electric bill by shifting some of your usage to the free electricity times of day.
* Note: The rates mentioned in this piece are as of June 4th 2015.
What Happens To My Electricity If (When!) TXU Declares Bankruptcy?
We have been receiving quite a few questions about what will happen when TXU’s parent company, Energy Futures Holdings, declares bankruptcy. The issue is actually fairly complex in the case of EFH, but let’s start by addressing what generally happens to your electricity when your electricity provider declares bankruptcy.
If your Retail Electricity Provider (REP) goes out of business, your electricity will be switched over to the “provider of last resort,” which happens to be Green Mountain for most of Texas. When the switch is made, you will be on a month-to-month contract, meaning you can leave Green Mountain for another provider at any time without having to pay a penalty.
If your REP declares bankruptcy in order to restructure (avoid paying their debts), yet still plans to stay in business, you will not notice any change. You will still be under contract from your existing REP, and they will continue to provide you with electricity. This is what will more than likely happen with TXU.
The complex part of the issue is that EFH also owns Luminant (formerly TXU) and Oncor (formerly TXU). Luminant is the largest energy supplier in Texas, and Oncor owns and operates all of the power lines and meters in the Dallas area, as well as a large portion of North and Central Texas. If EFH’s subsidiaries were to cease operating, the Texas Public Utility Commission would need to step in to keep the lights on for a large percentage of the state’s population.
Although it is probable that EFH will declare bankruptcy in the near future, it is highly improbable that they will cease operations. More than likely, a third party (or parties) would come in to buy the 3 subsidiaries, and they would probably receive very favorable treatment from the PUC and Texas in regards to fees, expenses and taxes. This would be along the lines of what happened to the large investment and retail banks over the last several years.
In light of TXU’s severe financial issues, customers of the ailing giant are jumping ship and switching to other providers. Now is the time to be proactive in switching to an electricity provider that offers good rates and has a strong fiscal standing.