New Meters Enabling New Rate Designs by Competitive Power Suppliers in Texas

Michael Giberson

Many companies offer retail electric power contracts in the competitive retail portions of Texas, but for a long time the contracts have been kind of, you know, boring: either fixed rate or variable, if fixed then for 1 or 2 years. Renewable content offerings provided a little color, ranging up to 100 percent. Toss in some prepay options and differences on early termination fees, and that about covers the range of options.

Now smart meters, being installed in both the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas, are enabling more diverse rate designs. Elizabeth Souder at Texas Energy and Environment mentioned TXU Energy and Reliant had begun offering time-of-use rates. Souder reports that for the Oncor distribution area (D-FW area):

TXU charges 8.9 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity used off peak. Power used on peak, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. from May to October, costrs 24.3 cents.

TXU time-of-use customers also get a free thermostat that shows how much power they are using. Customers may decline the thermostat and get a $75 Visa gift card instead.

Tom Fowler of NewsWatch: Energy reports that for the CenterPoint Energy distribution area:

In Houston, Reliant has three levels April thru October: 11.6 cents off-peak, 13.4 cents standard and 15.6 cents on-peak. November thru March it’s 11.6 cents off-peak and 13.4 cents.

These rates are just some of the first offerings to take advantage of the new metering capabilities, more and probably better offerings to come.

Since May, Green Mountain Energy has been offering a “Renewable Rewards” program, a privately offered net metering rate for residential customers with distributed generation capability. Participation requires a meter capable of two-way metering (are the standard “smart meters” being installed capable?) and of course there are limits. But the first 500 kwh per month of excess energy is bought back at the customer’s full retail price, and any additional energy is bought at 50 percent of retail.

And unlike net metering elsewhere, imposed on regulated utilities and funded via cross subsidies from other ratepayers, participation in Renewable Rewards is voluntary; the Green Mountain Energy program is a privately-provided competitive offering.