Q: What are the benefits of Texas Electric Choice?
A: Texas' electric rates are average, compared to the rest of the
country, but our usage is among the highest in the nation due to demand for air
conditioning during the long, hot summer season. Competition in other industries
has often brought lower prices and innovative, new products and services. Having
more control over your buying decision should make it easier to determine what
matters most to you, whether its prices, renewable energy, customer service, or
a name you know. Electric competition should also help the environment because
retail electric providers must offer some energy from renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass (gas released
from landfills), produce less air pollution than sources that rely on burning
coal or natural gas.
Q: How will Texas Electric Choice affect electric rates?
A: The base rates for residential and small commercial customers of investor-owned utilities in Texas have been frozen since September 1, 1999, and will continue to remain that way until December 31, 2001. Rates for most of these customers will be lowered six percent on January 1, 2002.
Q: If electric rates are frozen, why does my electric bill rise?
A: Texas law allows your current electric utility to recover its fuel costs from customers through a "fuel factor," which is set by the PUC and charged on each customer's bill, based on kilowatt hour usage. An electric utility is allowed to recover its costs for the fuel used to generate electricity, such as coal, natural gas, wind, water, nuclear, etc., through the fuel factor. The cost of natural gas has increased significantly over the last year, and fuel factors have been increased to reflect the higher cost of natural gas. A utility is prohibited from making a profit on fuel costs.
Q: Why is there a Pilot Program?
A: Giving electric customers the power to choose means a lot of companies are learning new procedures and are setting up new processes. The Pilot Program gives everyone the ability to test all their systems before the extended Texas Electric Choice program kickoff in January 2002. The Pilot Program also gives customers the opportunity to shop for better prices or services.
Q: Will my utility give my name and phone number to other companies?
A: Although your current electric utility will not give your telephone number to other companies, it is required to include your name, address and usage information on a list of eligible customers that will be made available to Retail Electric Providers. Your current electric utility will give you information on how to prevent your information from being shared. Doing this will not prevent solicitations or prevent you from shopping for a REP.
Q: What if I don't want to get calls asking me to switch to a different Retail Electric Provider?
A: Before the opening of the retail electric market on January 1, 2002, electric customers will have the opportunity to join a "do not call" list which will prevent telemarketers from calling you on behalf of Retail Electric Providers or aggregators.
Q: How does the new competition law protect the environment?
Q: Will the PUC give out prices?
A:Customer interested in shopping for a new Retail Electric Provider (REP) should contact individual REPs to determine their service offerings. Customers should ask REPs for their "Electricity Facts Label," which will include information prices, contracts, sources of generation and emissions. This will allow you to compare the offerings of different REPs.
There are also price comparison services available on the Internet that will provide comparisons for Texas when customer choice begins.
Q: Do I have to switch from my current electric utility?
A: No. If you decide not to participate in the Pilot Program, you will remain a customer of your current electric utility. However, on January 1, 2002, if you decide not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, you will be transferred to a Retail Electric Provider that is affiliated with your current electric utility.
Q: Can I go back to my current electric utility after choosing a provider?
A: During the Pilot Program, you may return to your current electric utility at any time. However, during the full Texas Electric Choice program, which begins January 1, 2002, you may be required to sign a service contract. By leaving the REP before the end of the contact, you may incur penalty fees.
Q: Can I leave my current electric utility completely?
A: You cannot totally remove yourself from all association with your local electric utility. Your current electric utility will continue to deliver power to your home or business.