Playing Games

Since energy is deregulated in Texas, residents select their providers. It takes time, effort and skill to ensure you’re not getting into a plan that ultimately hurts you in the long run. Ours always comes up in August… and every year I have to figure out who has the best deal at that moment. In years when prices rise, we come out ahead. In years when prices fall – like, oh, say, the past 12 months – it hasn’t worked out so well. There are several tricks to playing this game.

You have to be sure to: 1) Do the research; 2) Leave your current provider – because, like satellite TV, cable and mobile phones – the best deals are ‘for new customers only’; 3) Read the fine print; and, 4) Switch on the day after your existing contract is up, so you don’t get hit with a cancellation fee after 364 days of loyalty.

Companies offer lowest rate discounts when you utilize the sweet spot of 1000-2000 kWh. Miss it and you pay a penalty that greatly increases your charges. It’s a marketing approach providers say prevents them from incurring out-of-line administrative expenses for underutilization. Of course, another way to look at it is you are penalized for conserving energy. That seems rather inconsistent with the world’s needs these days.

Nevertheless, I figured out how to beat the system. We’ll sign a new three-month agreement (with another provider), because our usage will be above 1000 through November. Then we’ll switch for six months… during which we’ll be under that magic kWh number. And then do it all again in May to get back on the other side of the usage total.

If I were in charge, this would be handled differently. Our best customers would receive a premium for staying – and no one would be penalized for being energy conscious. Alas, I’m not.


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