Texas Electric Deregulation - A Road Map For America

By Jerry Dyess

Monopolies aren't good for customers, just companies. That's true of electric companies, too. With monopolies, customers are simply left to put up with what they've got in front of them, service from one company. This gives companies all the advantage, and none of the difficulty. It also lets them drive prices up such that they can make profits without having to provide significant value to consumers.

Because of this, electric companies have been reined in such that deregulation laws in Texas have been put in place as of 2002. Now, most citizens in Texas can choose the providers they want for their electricity. That gives more competition, which puts customers in control once again. Deregulation means better customer service, a chance to use renewable energy sources instead of the "same old, same old" nonrenewable, bad for the environment sources, and better pricing as well.

This wasn't always true. Before deregulation was put in place in Texas, a single utility provided service to an entire area and performed all duties of service, including destination, transmission and sales. Consumers were simply left to put up with what they were given, whether it was the best or not. Deregulation, however, has changed the landscape. Now, one company usually handles transmission and distribution, with other companies handling sales and billing. This gives consumers choice, so they can choose the providers they want to provide service to them. The entire process is overseen by the Public Utility Commission, so that problems are taken care of immediately, before they become major difficulties.

Today, about 75% of the citizens in Texas have the ability to choose the power companies they want, and thus to control at least to some extent how much they pay, where they get their power from, and the level of service they receive. This benefits businesses as well as private consumers, and when businesses benefit, that business's customers benefit, too.

That's because when businesses get the ability to choose who provides their electric service, this means lower utility costs and better service for them -- and that means lower costs for them, too. That means those businesses can pass their cost savings onto their customers.

Even with deregulation improvement, of course, about one fourth of Texas' electric consumers don't enjoy the benefits of deregulation and competition. Large cities such as San Antonio and Austin don't have deregulatory benefits, and electric cooperatives are also exempt from deregulation.

Even with these drawbacks, electric utility providers continue to perform positive changes. Renewable energy sources are on the forefront, and are implemented wherever possible. Development is continual; as one example, wind farms are becoming commonplace on Texas' landscapes. They provide completely clean and renewable energy for electrical needs.

If you live in Texas and you can take advantage of deregulation, make sure you do. Choose your provider by making sure you shop around for a company that's best going to suit your needs. For example, many websites provide "real time" cost comparisons between providers so that you can shop around just by going online and doing some research, easily.

Once you've done your homework and have chosen the company you want to provide your electric service, you simply place your order with that company, and they'll send you information on your rights as a customer. Your new provider will also send you a terms of service agreement, and you won't have to contact your old provider, either. You're new provider will simply handle the change of service and you'll get a notice about the change of service in your mail. Your service will actually change at your next meter reading.

However, do be aware that your new company is not going to take over responsibility for the final bills from your old company. Take care of those bills yourself, though, and you should be fine. Besides that one small responsibility, there is no effort in switching companies, such that it should be absolutely painless and automatically done. Just choose your new provider, and enjoy the benefits of deregulation and competition. - 30558

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