The Power to Lose: Spark Energy 40 cents/kWh

July 23, 2018

Yeah. You read that right. 40 cents/kWh.

Ken Lay’s great electricity deregulation in Texas has been a total flop. Before screwing his employees and stock holders Lay laid it to the consumers in Texas by lobbying for deregulation. It worked but the promises of lower rates or even stable rates was nothing but that. Promises.

In order to “help” the consumer the Public Utility Commission has created the Power to Choose website, also known as the Power to Lose. The site is complicated, deceiving, full of misleading information and extremely hard to understand. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. Try to find an affordable fixed rate plan for 12-60 months. Good luck. You will need it. Just for grins, I performed the search and looked for the highest priced plan available. Spark Energy was listed at 10-20-40 cents per kWh. You can try to figure out this rate by downloading the Electricity Facts Label.

Consumers are not a picky bunch. They want to know how much will they pay and how many features will be available. Before regulation consumers knew exactly how much they would pay. Here in Houston under Houston Light & Power (HL&P) it was just under 8 cents a kWh. You received a paper bill each month. You mailed a check or paid at the grocery store. No one seemed to care about monitoring their electricity use, or waiting for the weekend to turn on their AC unit to reap the benefits of their free weekends gimmick.

Texans are a gullible bunch of people. They actually think they are getting a good deal paying 12 cents/kWh.

If you have Breeze Energy….they have left Texas

May 31, 2018

My suggestion is to find a new electricity reseller immediately. From KPRC:

HOUSTON – After nearly 20 years in business in the state of Texas, it’s lights out for Breeze Energy.The Electric Reliability Council of Texas pulled the plug on the power provider Wednesday after it learned the company was not meeting mandated financial requirements to remain feasible.But that also meant the process to immediately shift nearly 10,000 customers to other providers was initiated without the rates those customers had negotiated with Breeze. Those new providers are referred to as “providers of last resort” or “POLR.”

For those Currently with Breeze you will be transferred to a POLR which according to Electric Choice is Reliant Energy. Their rates are anywhere from 14 cents to 23 cents/kWh depending just how you look at their Electricity Facts Sheet.

According to the PUC:

The Commission has designated Providers of Last Resort (POLR) as a back-up electric service provider in each area of Texas open to competition. POLR service is relatively high-priced, due to the costs associated with planning and the risk of serving an uncertain number of customers with uncertain electricity loads. POLR service is a safety net for customers whose chosen REP is unable to continue service. This service is intended to be temporary and used only under rare circumstances when a REP is unable to provide service, or when a customer requests POLR service.

So switch now and avoid the high priced POLD or else you will be SOL.

The Power to Lose. The failure of electricity deregulation

February 21, 2017

The Houston Chronicle summed up the Public Utility Commission’s PowerToChoose website perfectly:

Darla Jackson of Coppell, north of Dallas, wanted to change to her retail electricity company, but couldn’t face the prospect of using the state’s comparison shopping site, Like many Texans, she felt overwhelmed by the number of companies, variety of plans and mind-numbing terms and conditions which, even after hours of study, left her confused, overwhelmed and uncertain of the best deal.

Last year the Commissioner, Donna Nelson, realized how incredibly deceptive their website can be and took action to update and improve it so consumers could actually compare prices when selecting an electricity billing company. According to the Texas Tribune:

Donna Nelson, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, said Thursday at a public meeting. “They’ve got all these tricky little things in their prices, and whatever the fact sheets are called – the nutrition label – that makes it really difficult for customers.”

Nelson started Project 45730 to receive comments from interested individuals on how to improve the website. After months of collecting information from 193 parties, the PUC responded with absolutely no changes to the website. In fact the gimmicks have become worse.

It is nearly impossible to make an informed decision based upon the information provided by the There are just too many gimmicks, fine print, and “gotchas” for the average consumer to wade through. The PUC knows this and yet have taken no action besides calling for suggestions and input from the community and then ignoring them. It was clearly a complete waste of time and resources. 

Especially mine. When it is time to select a new billing company, just remember who lobbied for deregulation on your behalf, Key Lay and Enron.


Shocking. Volt Electricity Provider

November 2, 2016

A quick break from politics.

A few months ago the Public Utility Commission (PUC) requested comments from consumers on how to improve their website the The Chairman of the PUC stated in the Texas Tribune article:

Donna Nelson, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, said Thursday at a public meeting. “They’ve [electricity resellers] got all these tricky little things in their prices, and whatever the fact sheets are called – the nutrition label – that makes it really difficult for customers.”

Today the tricky little things continue. For example, look at the rate for Volt Electricity Provider (Volt EP)

Volt EP advertises a plan that charges a fixed rate of 7.7 cents per kWh across the board but the details of the plan is something different. According to the Fact Sheet the rate is a type of “average” I have never seen before. For instance if a homeowner uses 500 kWh the bill is $38.50 (7.7 cents per kWh). But if that same homeowner uses only 250 kWh the bill is the same $38.50. (15.4 cents per kWh) Here is a pic from their fact sheet:

So the true cost of Volt EP really isn’t as easy as kWh X 7.7 cents because it depends upon your real usage for the month. Based upon my usage over the last year my real average would be 9.9 cents per kWh about 30% higher than what is advertised.

Welcome to the Texas deregulation market.

The Power to Complain: Texas Electricity Website Is Rigged

May 24, 2016

Thanks to Dave Fehling of Houston Public Media for this story on the Texas Public Utility Commission Power to Choose website. After 13 years the promise of lower electricity rates due to deregulation has never materialized for Texas consumers. The Power to Choose website was designed to allow consumers the ability to “Shop, Compare, and Choose” but has failed to do so.

The PUC has been collecting comments on how to improve their deceptive Power to Choose website. As many of the 100 comments have stated, the website does not truly compare the hundreds of plans available that are complicated with fees, gimmicks, rebates, and hidden charges. Even the Chairman of the PUC stated in the Texas Tribune article:

Donna Nelson, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, said Thursday at a public meeting. “They’ve [electricity resellers] got all these tricky little things in their prices, and whatever the fact sheets are called – the nutrition label – that makes it really difficult for customers.”

I was pleased to see that other individuals and organizations, including AARP Texas, has joined me in recommending true comparison of the plans available taking into consideration their historic kWh usage of their home coupled with the various plans, fees, and gimmicks. The PUC has access to consumer’s historical usage. They can easily take this information and perform the calculations for every plan and show how much each plan would truly cost. This would be a true and fairly accurate comparison based upon your specific usage. Currently the website does nothing more than displays the cost per kWh and some of the gimmicks for each company. This is not comparing.

“Give real comparisons of how much you will be paying each company,” said Cobarruvius. A PUC spokesperson told us that the commission is continuing to take consumer comments and will consider changes by sometime late this summer.

With historic lows in natural gas and the magic of deregulation championed by Ken Lay and Enron, it is about time the Public Utility Commission make good on their promises of lower electricity rates for consumers.

If you are interested, comments can be viewed and submitted here.

Electricity Rate Recommendation

February 25, 2016

Before electricity deregulation consumers in the old HL&P area were paying just under 8 cents a kWh in a long term, no maintenance, contract. Now after 13 years of deregulation consumers have the ability to “Shop, Compare, Choose” according to the Public Utility Commission’s website, the Unfortunately choosing using the tools provided by the PUC is complicated and deceiving. Don’t take my word for it, even the Commissioner agrees. From Jim Malewitz of the Texas Tribune:

Donna Nelson, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, said Thursday at a public meeting. “They’ve [electricity resellers] got all these tricky little things in their prices, and whatever the fact sheets are called – the nutrition label – that makes it really difficult for customers.”

I’m putting the final touches to a presentation titled “How to Select a Cost Effective Electricity Reseller” and in doing so stumbled upon a plan that is about as close to what we had pre-deregulation. Is it the cheapest? Maybe not for your specific usage and your home but if you are looking for a no gimmick, no extra fees, no hidden costs, with a relatively low rate, this is the one for you.

Discount Power has a 12 or 24 month plan at 7,.7 cents per kWh no matter how much electricity you use during the month. Many plans have variable rates, discounts and extra fees depending upon your usage during a specific month. It can be very complicated to compute a real rate and sometimes it isn’t as low as it seems, but knock yourself out if you want to try.

With this plan you have a long, no maintenance contract, at 7.7 plus tax. If you appreciate a relatively low rate, a longer contract, and no gimmicks, this is the one for you. Discount Power Saver No Gimmicks 24 signup can be found here. The electricity fact sheet is here.

BTW I do not receive any referral fees from Discount Power and I have signed up myself.

Public Utility Commission shocked at deceptive pricing on their The Power To Choose website

February 12, 2016

I’ve been saying this for a while.

Electricity resellers provide rates to the PUC to be published on their website the The idea is to provide a single location where consumers could “compare” prices from various resellers. As I have said in the past, “It ain’t easy”. In fact it is at times deceptive and today the PUC agrees. From Texas Regulators Eye Deceptive Electricity Pricing” by Jim Malewitz of the Texas Tribune:

Donna Nelson, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, said Thursday at a public meeting. “They’ve got all these tricky little things in their prices, and whatever the fact sheets are called – the nutrition label – that makes it really difficult for customers.”

The rates that are published do not clearly show the “gotchas”, gimmicks, or extra fees. Most prices are also based upon your particular usage. A great rate for one person could be a horrible rate for another. Gotchas and fees include a monthly usage fee, a discount for using more electricity, a penalty for using less, and penalties for not using automatic withdrawal from your checking account.

Because of these, sometimes hidden, charges the fails to provide real rate comparison. Even if the charges are not hidden there is no way to really compare but there is a solution.

Consumers have access to their usage history through their reseller. The PUC could allow a user to input their monthly usage for a year and then perform the calculations to determine how much electricity would actually cost per reseller. This would not be perfect since your usage may vary but it would be very close and would serve as a basis for comparison.

As an example. A provider on the PUC website advertised a rate of 5 cents/kWh for using more than 1000 kWh a month and 11.5 for using less. My home is 2400 sq ft and I use over 1000 kWh just 4 months of the year. After performing these calculations the average rate I would pay is 9.9 cents well over the 8 cents I was paying pre-deregulation.

So…the PUC is finally getting it. Just remember who lobbied for deregulation, Ken Lay and Enron.

The Power to Choose. It ain't that easy.

February 19, 2015

If you listen to to those who support Ken Lay’s electricity deregulation you might think choosing an electricity plan that’s right for you might be as easy as visiting the Public Utility Commission of Texas website, the Well it ain’t but go ahead and visit. Using the website, enter a zip code of 77062 and display the fixed rate, 12 month plans. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

The lowest rate displayed is by Discount Power for 7.4 cents a kWh, lower than what we were paying before deregulation, but it isn’t the rate you will pay if you select this plan. Open the Electricity Facts Label. I’ve written about this about a year ago. It wasn’t easy then and it’s harder now.

A year ago I created a spreadsheet to calculate the real rate based upon the kWh used, the penalties, and the monthly fees based upon my usage from last year. This year the tricks and gimmicks broke my spreadsheet. So I had to call Discount to understand their plan.

The rate for this plan is actually 11.64 cents multiplied by the kWh used, minus $45.00 if the usage is over 1000 for that month. Got that? And add the $3.05/month charge for electronic metering. This rate includes the TDSP delivery charges but not the taxes.

After many phone calls I gave in and extended by plan with PennyWise at a calculated rate of about 9.7 cents.  After all someone has to pay the middlemen with the complicated rates.

Evaluating TXU's Texas Choice 12 Plan

April 13, 2014

Electricity prices are not very easy to compare, almost impossible. Recently I evaluated the claims by Reliant Energy’s “Sweet Deal” plan. Here is an evaluation of TXU’s “Texas Choice 12“. The bottom line is that Texans should choose a different provider.

First this plan is advertised at 12.90 a kWh, a 3% cash back, and a $150 cancellation fee. Unfortunately that rate is for usage of 2000+ kWh per month. Most individuals would never reach that threshold to qualify for this rates. The rate for using between 1000 and 2000 is 13.60, which is what I used for my calculations. They also have a $4.95 monthly fee for the “privilege” of being charged for electricity. And don’t forget if you conserve energy and use less than 500 kWh per month, the charge is an outrageous 15 cents! From TXU’s website:

Average Monthly Use Average Price per kWh
500 kWh 15.00 ¢
1000 kWh 13.60 ¢
2000 kWh 12.90 ¢

Based upon all of the above and my usage over the last year the bottom line is $1541.60 for the entire year with an average of  13 cents a kWh. That includes the whopping $38 cash back for the entire year.

I would rate this TXU Energy Texas Choice 12 Plan nothing more than a gimmick. Look elsewhere. There are much better deals. I went with PennyWise, but there are no guarantees the same plan exists today.

Now, how is that electricity deregulation ushered in by Enron doing for you?

Recapping the process of choosing an electricity provider

March 15, 2014

Who proposed to deregulate electricity? Ken Lay and Enron. How has that worked out fer ya?

After a week of attempting to find the best electricity provider I finally selected one, but it wasn’t as easy as “shopping around” or visiting the Power To Choose website. Here is what I found:

  1. website lacks the PowertoCompare. It does not have the ability to truly compare prices which would include penalties for conserving energy, monthly fees, credit check fees, fees for auto deduction, or application fees.
  2. Hidden fees. Many, if not all, providers will charge you a fee of $9 – $20.00 if you conserve energy and use less than 1000 kWh in a month. Last year I had only 4 months over 1000.
  3. Not so hidden fees. Some providers simply charge a monthly fee ranging from $9 to $15. 
  4. No PowertoCompare. The PowertoChoose There is no capability to truly compare rates. My poorly crafted spreadsheet accepted the cost per kWh, the monthly fee, and the penalty and calculated a cost per month based upon last years usage and the average cost per kWh. (I’ll blog the results later)
  5. Other plans. The Power to Choose does not have all the plans available. I was able to select a plan when I found the company had other lower cost plans available. 
  6. Auto deductions. Some providers will also charge you a fee, about $12, if you are not enrolled in an auto deduction program.
  7. Reversed hidden fees. I found a couple of providers out of the hundreds available, that actually charges less per kWh if you are below 1000 kWh. This blew my spreadsheet, so I need to research this a little more.

Centerpoint energy actually has a website ( that can compare prices based upon your usage over the years if you have an electronic meter. Unfortunately not all the electricity providers participate. There’s always a catch.

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