The Silver Lining

Take advantage and save by actively updating your electricity plans.

Special to INSPIRE COASTAL BEND

Most believe we have three basic needs: food, shelter and clothing. As a South Texan, I have to add air conditioning to that list, because it is a matter of health and wellness. With summer quickly approaching, following a pretty nonexistent winter, most residents are preparing to crank those AC units down as heat and humidity move in.

Traditionally, as the temperatures rise, so do those electricity bills. Countless South Texans have found themselves with an unexpected electricity bill capable of causing a heart attack. But sadly, research shows that residents only spend an average of six minutes reviewing their electricity bills over the course of the year. Why so little time when choices are available and savings are possible? It can be confusing, overwhelming and sometimes frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be.

Most South Texans have the opportunity to select their energy provider and service plan that best fits their needs. Those who shop, save. If you have not shopped in a while, your provider is likely charging more than what is offered to a new customer for the same service.

Whether you are a residential user, a small business or a buyer for a large commercial enterprise, here are a few tips to help make your energy-buying process easier and bring additional savings:

1) Review your current bill and determine three things:
a. What is my unit rate (price per kWh)?
b. What is my contract end date?
c. What is my total rate (total invoice/monthly usage)?

2) Shop, shop, shop. Who doesn’t like to shop?
a. Compare your unit rate and total rate to those being offered by various retail electricity providers (online resources: PowertoChoose.org, MyTrueCost.com and suppliers’ websites).
b. Choose a plan that best fits your needs and value.

3) Review the supplier scorecards at PowertoChoose.org.

Electricity is measured in kilowatt hours, or kWh. It is important to pay attention to your unit and total rate, and any added fees or charges applicable to your plan. Many electricity suppliers try to create the illusion of lower kWh rates by adding set fees or other charges to the kWh charges.

Making a choice does not have to be complicated. While there are many different products you can choose from when purchasing electricity, most revolve around a fixed rate. Product differences fall into three categories:

1) Fixed or variable rate

2) Term (e.g. three, six, 12 or 24 month; period of time the rate applies)

3) Other services (e.g. includes a smart thermostat or green energy sources)

Credible retailers avoid the use of complicated rate structures and can provide simple analyses of your choices. Be aware that some plans also include other features, like the inclusion of smart thermostats. While these provide new tools, the kWh rate that accompanies these plans may have you spending two or three times the cost of the thermostat on Amazon.

MOST BELIEVE WE HAVE THREE BASIC NEEDS_updated

In the business domain, other complexities exist. A business must determine what other considerations apply, like budget certainty, energy efficiency promotions and changes in their business that may cause energy usage to change. More than 70 percent of businesses in Texas utilize the service of brokers or consultants to guide their procurement of electricity.

“The use of brokers is an effective strategy, and businesses should seek well-qualified brokers to represent them in the marketplace,” says Tim Clark, president at Stellar Energy Solutions. “While Texas does not regulate brokers, many firms, including Stellar Energy Solutions, have strived to establish standards for the industry applying core values of integrity, choice and service.”

While most of today’s headlines are focused on the significant drop in oil and natural gas prices and how that may stress the South Texas economy, a silver lining exists for those of us who actively update our electricity plans. Prices being offered to South Texas residents and businesses are the lowest in over a decade, so why not take advantage and save?

For more information, visit Stellar Energy Solutions online at www.stellarnrgsolutions.com.

gvictoria/bigstock.com. Graphic courtesy of Stellar Energy Solutions

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