The Public Utility Commission of Texas & the Power to Choose

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) regulates the state’s electric, telecommunication, and water and sewer utilities, implements legislation related to those utilities, and offers customer assistance in resolving consumer complaints.

Electricity deregulation in Texas has been around since 2002. Since then the PUCT has played a key role in educating Texans about choosing a competitive Retail Electricity Provider (REP) and being a consumer advocate as it relates to electricity deregulation in Texas.

What is the PUCT Responsible for?

The mission of the PUCT is to protect customers, foster competition, and promote high quality infrastructure (i.e. the poles and wires that deliver electricity to your home or business).

The PUCT is responsible for:

  1. Licensing Retail Electricity Providers (REPs) and Aggregators,
  2. Monitoring competitive activity in the state to ensure a level playing field,
  3. Approving delivery rates for the regulated transmission and distribution service providers (TDSPs), also knows as the local poles and wires company,
  4. Regulating ERCOT (Independent System Operator – ISO) with oversight from the Texas legislature, and
  5. Monitoring and responding to consumer complaints.

Who Can Shop for Electricity in Texas?

Residential and commercial customers in most areas of Texas can shop.  For example, if you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Waco, Killeen, Corpus Christi, Brownsville and Midland areas you can shop for electricity.

If you are in El Paso, Conroe, Brenham, Austin, San Antonio, Beaumont and parts of The Woodlands, you are in a regulated utility area and cannot shop for an electricity provider. You may be wondering, if Texas is deregulated, why can’t I choose my electricity provider?

The good news is that approximately 85% of TX power consumers can shop for an electricity provider.  If you live or have a business in any of these utility delivery areas, you can compare electricity rates, shop, and save:

  • Centerpoint – Houston area
  • Oncor – Dallas/Fort Worth, Waco, Killeen, Midland/Odessa
  • AEP Central – South Texas, including Brownsville and Corpus Christi
  • AEP North – Parts of Midland/Odessa, Abilene, San Angelo, and central Texas
  • TNMP – Galveston, League City, and northern Texas

Some cooperative areas, like Nueces Electric Coop, also allow you to shop for TX Electricity. Discussions are under way for other areas to start allowing electricity choice. These include Lubbock Power and Light and Entergy. The PUCT will manage any new market deregulation.

Why is there no Price to Compare in Texas?

In other deregulated markets, the local utility company continues to serve consumers under what’s often called the “price to compare” or standard service offer.

When the state legislators and the PUCT structured electricity deregulation in Texas, they studied different market and industry examples. They decided to make even playing field. The incumbent electricity utilities were each split into two companies – an “affiliate retail electricity provider” (i.e. formerly affiliated with the old electric company) and a transmission and distribution service provider (i.e. the poles and wires company).

To encourage competition, the Affiliate Retail Electricity Provider (A-REP) had to charge a rate that was set and approved with the PUCT, called the Price to Compare. Once competitive retail electricity providers (C-REP) had gained sufficient customers, the PUCT eliminated the Price to Compare.

Now, we have a 100% competitive market for electricity supply in TX.  You can shop for Texas electricity plans, compare rates, and have your choice of a variety of products!

Fine Print, Gimmicks and Gotchas

The PUCT maintains a state-run shopping site, the Power to Choose, to help consumers shop for electricity plans. Within that site, shoppers view average prices based on 1000 kWh monthly consumption. This is an attempt to help shoppers make an apples to apples comparison when shopping for TX electricity rates.

Unfortunately, the Power to Choose has become the Power to Confuse, with a mish-mash of gimmicks and gotchas, all hiding behind an average price per kWh that “looks” fair. The REPs access and manage their own offers on this state-run price board, and the PUCT has very little control over what is presented on the site. Buyer beware!

Read more: The Evolution of Power to Choose in Texas: How Did We Get Here? >>

REPs have gamed the Power to Choose site, tricking consumers with fine print, tiered rates, and confusing rate structures. They all look like a great deal at 1000 kWh per month. Then you read the details. There are hoops to jump through and fine print. The PUCT, regulators, and consumers are not happy with the games that companies play with electricity rates. It’s not illegal, but it’s not right.

Besides the gimmicks and gotchas, there are an overwhelming number of plans to choose from. As of May 2018, there were 52 retail electricity providers on the Power to Choose site for the Centerpoint area. Those 52 REPs were offering 295 different electricity plans!

Compare Electricity Rates in Texas and Shop for Electricity Plans

ElectricityPlans.com was created to help customers compare and shop for the best electricity rates and plans in Texas. (The folks that run this website live in the Great State of Texas. So yee-haw, y’all!) We figured if we found it hard to shop for electricity plans in TX, other people might find it confusing too.

When you shop ElectricityPlans.com, you shop from a select list of quality providers. We only feature quality plans, and we help you understand the fine print. We also have articles that help you learn how to shop for an electricity plan, and how to switch electricity plans.

Within the ElectricityPlans.com site, you can compare cheap prepaid electricity plans, shop free nights electricity plans or shop free weekends electricity plans. Former or current military? We feature discount military electricity plans. Want to go green? Shop green energy plans that use 100% renewable energy. Want free stuff?  Compare plans that have electricity + extras like Nest thermostats, Google Home or gift cards.  Moving into a new home or apartment in Texas? We can help.

The options are almost endless, but ElectricityPlans.com features only the best electricity plans for you, and works with PUCT-approved retail electricity providers.

Can Someone Help Me Choose the Best Electricity Plan?

Absolutely — just use our new PlanScan tool! No energy ogres or scary energy monsters here — PlanScan is free to use and we don’t require you to hand over your social security number or credit card information.

We’ll analyze your data using our proprietary tool to match your requirements to our database of hundreds of plans. We’ll identify the best TX electricity plans for your home and save you money.

And that is what deregulation is all about.