Monday, September 17, 2012

Getting A Bigger Charge Out Of My Electricity Vendor

Un-Reddy Kilowatt?
I just spent a half hour in an online chat with a customer rep from Houston's largest (and my current) supplier of electricity. Our plan at Our House is up for renewal in a couple of months, and I needed answers to the following apparent conundrum:
  • Our current plan is 100% wind power, as it has been since wind was first made available in Houston;
  • 100% wind power seems to be available to new customers of this company;
  • The company did not mention 100% wind power in its "plans for you" listed in my contract renewal.
The chat was very satisfactory; the rep was polite and helpful. But the result is that the company will not sell me 100% wind power. Period.

Meanwhile, in searching the web for other vendors (I've barely scratched the surface; I made no immediate progress), I ran across an article by Loren Steffy, a generally sane Houston Chronicle business columnist who also writes Fuel Fix, an energy industry blog. (Think: Houston's raison d'être is energy production. Of course there's a major blog for it; actually, several blogs.) Steffy's post, titled nonchalantly "Why the power company makes out like a bandit in Texas," begins like this:
NRG Energy has started making out its Christmas list a little early this year.

In a recent filing, the biggest Houston-area generator of electric power wrote a letter to the North Pole of Deregulation – Public Utilities Commission – to say what it wants: a doubling of the current caps on wholesale electricity prices and adopting what’s known as a capacity market.

Both possibilities have been considered separately to improve reliability for its troubled electric grid, but NRG’s filing is the first suggestion that the PUC do both.

Each option is likely to be expensive, and combined, it could result in higher prices and fewer companies for consumers to choose from in buying electricity.

“It’s outrageous,” said Paul Ring, an independent market analyst who writes the blog Energy Choice Matters. “It’s going to ruin the market.”

It's going to ruin our household budget, too. And not just ours. Houston summers are hotter, for longer, than most places in the country, and air conditioning is not optional: poor people whose electricity is cut off literally die here of dehydration and worse.

My best guess? Our electric vendor decided that there was too little profit in wind power, so they reduced the percentage in the mix in the few contracts remaining, to 20%. Most of our power, to quote GeeDubya, is nu‑ku‑lar.

So now I must shop for another vendor, not really expecting to find one. Welcome to Houston, Texas, energy capital of the nation, where suppliers give the customer exactly what they think s/he should want.

ADDED: how could I have forgotten to mention: the P.U.C. almost always gives the energy companies what they ask for.

1 comment:

  1. Boy, do I ever empathize with you on this one. Dealing with PG&E in California is like taking on the Borg.



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