Transparent Commercial Electricity Rates in Texas
February 21, 2011
If you are starting a small business in Texas, you know how exciting it can be be. Likewise, it can be a frustrating headache when you are trying to choose your energy provider because so few companies publically advertise their plans, rates, and prices. The main reason is that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas doesn’t require retail electricity providers to publish business consumer prices as they do residential.
However, back during pre-deregulation days, the monopoly utilities sold the idea that they were not too big to listen to the needs of their small business customers. They began the practice of providing custom energy plans. Small businesses quickly learned to like the idea that they were getting special treatment from the big energy giant. Of course, it’s not like they had much of a choice since the big energy monopoly was their only provider.
The same practice continues into the deregulated market today. Many REP’s claim they offer their small business customers the convenience of custom-tailored energy plans. At first glance, this sounds like a very convincing argument for not publishing their rates: since plans are custom tailored for business, every plan will be different. Sometimes, theTDSP charges for businesses can actually be as high as the energy usage charges themself. It sounds like it would be comparing apple to oranges, right?
A small business (one that’s not run out of the home) will likely use more electricity than a home. A small, intimate restaurant could face the energy demands of cooling a dining room with 16 to 20 guests for 12 hours or more a day (human bodies put out a lot of heat). There are also appliances and fans that need to be run. Dishwashers must heat water to at least 180 degrees farenheit to comply with health code. There’s also lighting for inside and outside, refridgerators, freezers, and beverage coolers. It’s possible the average monthly electrical bill could run between $2500 and $5000. Or in the case of a small metal fabrication shop where ventilation, arc-welding equipment, presses, drills, lathes, and grinding tools could easily cause energy costs to be just as high.
As a small business owner, you have a lot at stake when it comes to your energy plan. So, you will want to get the best rate. Even still, in a market place where small business owners can choose between providers, many providers still want to play by the old rules. They insist prospective small business customers call them first.
Why? So they can hide their silverware? Where’s the customer convenience now?
Instead of surfing the web for an hour finding out and comparing the rates from a dozen or so providers, you face a process that could take weeks, turning into a teeth-grinding time-suck. You have to surrender time from your business to ask for quotes. You have to carve out time for playing phone-tag with sales reps who may — or may not— be trying to get you a great deal. In the end, how do you know you’re getting a good deal? After all, if they don’t publicize their plans for your small businesses by building you a “custom plan”, you have to dig harder to compare rates. Are there additional fees? What about TDSP charges? Is there a mark-up? How do you know you’re getting the best, fair estimated price?
The truth is that pricing transparency for small business plans may lead to tougher competition for your small business’ energy dollars. Maybe that’s the real issue.
So in the spirit of competition, let’s look at some the commercial energy providers and see just what they offer.
Amigo Energy has three plans (you have to click on the “enroll now” button to access the EFL): WebBiz-6: 6 month fixed plan with an energy charge of 6.8¢/kWh. WebBiz-12: 12 month fixed plan with an energy charge of 6.4¢/kWh. WebBiz-24: a 24 month fixed plan with an energy charge of 6.6¢/KWh. There are no TDSP mark up charges.
Bounce Energy has three plans: Taking Care of Business 12 (fixed) with an energy charge of 6.8¢/kWh, Taking Care of Business 24 (fixed) with an energy charge of 6.6¢/kWh, and Taking Care of Business variable with an energy charge of 7.1¢/kWh, no contract or termination fee. All three plans feature a $4.95 Base Charge per ESID per month and TDSPcharges passed through without markup.
Champion Energy Services says its competitive commercial electricity rates, superior customer care and customized solutions position them as the go-to electric energy provider for thriving businesses…except they don’t list their plan names, plan details, or prices. They want you to call them.
Cirro Energy provides everything a business needs to reduce its electric bills…except for any information about its plans, rates, or prices. They want you to contact them.
Constellation New Energy offers a fixed price plan, an indexed plan, a combination plan, and an Advanced plan they call a Minimize Volatile Pricing (MVP) that is a structured, systematic plan that attempts to reduce exposure to electricity price volatility and isn’t available in Texas. You can download very nice, colorful pdf files that tell you what a fixed, indexed, or combination plan is…but not what their plans are called, their rate system, additional fees, or their price. Yes, you must contact them.
dPi gives your Texas business competitive rates, reliable service, proactive customer service and flexible plans designed to grow as your business grows …but they won’t list their plans, nor their rates. Please contact them first.
Gexa Energy provides a wide selection of energy supply solutions for commercial and institutional customers throughout Texas…they just won’t show them to you until you contact them.
Glacial Energy supplies your business with reliable energy coupled with outstanding customer services at a low price…they also don’t want to post these plans, rates, and prices on the web because they want you to contact them first.
Mega Energy has superior energy solutions in a dynamic and changing landscape…but won’t back it up by showing their plan details or prices.
MXEnergy offers a variety of business energy rate plans that fit businesses of all sizes…but it won’t spell out terms, rates, or price. They list 5 plan options in terms of comparative risk but no specifics. You’ll need to contact them for a custom rate.
Reliant Energy does list plans after you enter your zip code. They have three:
Business Power Plus ePlan: a 12 month plan with an energy charge of 6.9¢/kWh, TDSP charges passed through without markup by Reliant. ePlan offers a lower rate when you sign up for Online Account Management, Paperless Billing and Automatic Payment
Business Power Plus 12: 12 month fixed energy plan with an energy charge of 7.1¢/kWh, TDSP charges passed through without markup.
Business Power Plus Monthly Flex: month-to-month plan with an energy charge of 7.6¢/kWh. TDSP charges passed through without markup. No cancellation fee.
Spark Energy is at least honest. They say up front that they offer custom plans based around your business needs. Their site lists no plan or prices and asks you to request a quote.
TaraEnergy sounds very nice and friendly. But, they want you to call, first.
TXU “TXU Energy Sensible ChoiceSM” has energy prices and plans designed specifically for small businesses — which sounds great, except they just won’t tell you anything about energy charges or other real pricing. They want you to contact them.
(to compare more electricity companies please check PowertoChoose.org. )
To sum up:
At the time of the writing, only three providers are advertising their rates.
Amigo Energy has three plans: WebBiz-6: 6 month fixed plan with an energy charge of 6.8¢/kWh. WebBiz-12: 12 month fixed plan with an energy charge of 6.4¢/kWh. WebBiz-24: a 24 month fixed plan with an energy charge of 6.6¢/KWh.
Reliant Energy is offering three plans (two fixed, one variable) with energy charges of 6.9¢, 7.1¢, and 7.6¢/kWh withTDSP charges passed through without markup.
Kinetic Energy offers 6 plans. They offer two fixed (1 year and 2 year contracts) non-renewable plans with energy charges of 7.47¢ and 6.55¢ and one variable non-renewable plan for 6.77¢ per kWh. The green plans they offer are available for 1 or 2 year contracts or a variable plan. The rate charges for Kinetic commercial electricity are 7.66¢ for a variable green plan, 6.74¢ for a 1 year green plan, and 6.96¢ for a 2 year renewable plan. These plans have a base charge of $4.00 per month and TDSP charges are passed through without markup for all plans.
Bounce Energy costs less, offering your small business three great money-saving plans: Taking Care of Business 12 month fixed (6.4¢/kWh energy charge), Taking Care of Business 24 month fixed rate (6.6¢/kWh energy charge), and Taking Care of Business Variable with no contract/no termination month-to-month plan (7.1¢/kWh energy charge). All three plans feature a modest $4.95 base charge per ESID/month and TDSP charges passed through without markup. You can also pay your bill online and/or by credit card free of charge.
*These energy rates reflected prices and plans taken on 2/11/2010 and reflect energy rates in the Centerpoint service territory. Rates will vary in other service territories like Centerpoint, AEP North and Central and TNMP.