As a refresher, let me clarify that this website is about a variety of issues. It is intended for those who:
1. Struggle with procrastination and/or a messy home (usually co-occurring but not always)
2.Care about the Environment or other type issues such as food production
In keeping with both those issues, this post will be about finding the right Electricity Supplier if you are in an area where you are allowed to do so.
I put it off for years, and fell under the Status Quo supplier’s ‘variable rate’ – which is the highest and one you want to avoid. I couldn’t figure out how to do it, didn’t know how to start, was afraid I would choose wrong. Suspected there might not be much difference in the providers anyway.
Then in February of this year, I was cleaning out an email account and found an email from my husband’s boss (who is an Electrical Engineer!) where my husband asked him how he picked his Electric Company – as I had complained that ‘we really should commit to an Electric Company’ – last year! This email was one year old, and he listed the steps he follows – and that he finds February a good month in which to do it. OK. So it was February, the perfect month. I had a fairly clear agenda that day, and it was a thought that had been bugging me. Time to actually do the deal.
Although the Boss Man had said his first step was to go to Powertochoose.org, – when I went there I didn’t understand enough about it to know how to choose. So I googled “how to choose an electric company in Texas”. What I got was this site http://www.imaginaryplanet.net/weblogs/idiotprogrammer/2011/09/how-to-choose-a-texas-electric-provider-the-wrong-way/ and it was extremely informative, so I honestly recommend you read that article first.
Since the main theme of that article, and my life is “pollute as little as possible”, I knew I wanted wind power.
So I went to www.Powertochoose.org (PTC in future in this post) and let me tell you, they have a lot of work to do. More on that later, let’s tackle it literally step by step for now.
If you do not live in Texas – google to see if you have electricity choice in your state – most do. There is a site dedicated to enabling you to make choices with side by side comparisons, if it helps – go to PTC and see how that site looks. Then find yours.
Here are the steps I recommend you follow:
Step 1 – know your useage. Unless you know you are over 1000kwh consistently, you really must know your monthly useage – because the trick to Electric Companies is the ‘Base Charge’. This means, if you use less than a certain amount of electricity each month – you will get a charge just for that. It made a huge difference to us because we actually use a low amount of electricity (Ms. Environmental Nut at work – plus small well designed house with good equipment).
So here is a shot of the very first screen you will see at PTC.
Before you do anything else, you are going to go out to your electrical meter and find the number on it. Mine is a 9 digit number somewhat in the lower center of the meter. Then you click on the “Smart Meter” link under the word Featured – I’ve circled it.
The next page is about your Smart Meter – and how it sends the info automatically to the Electric Company (I had no idea) and you can see your useage easily. To do that, Under the paragraph entitled “Benefits” – click on the link www.smartmetertexas.com (or just go there with that link).
There you will be able to sign up, pick a username and password (frankly, I keep a small address book for that – I am sick of forgetting passwords) and register your smartmeter account. Once you do that, and it only takes a few minutes, you can get your useage. Once you log in, you will get a screen and “Usage” is one of the options across the top tab. Pick that, and a screen comes up with your address and smartmeter info. Part of it looks like this:You will want to change the Report Type to Monthly – I have it circled, there are drop down options. I also changed the start and end dates to be exactly one year from when i was working. Under the graph is a listing in kwh of your actual useage. Write that down.
Now you know your useage, it is time to go to Step 2. Back to the PTC website.
Currently, PTC only sorts by “all” or “100% renewable” - I wrote Customer Service and they are working on upgrading this. I decided to do both – I knew I would end up with 100% renewable, I concur totally with the author of the above article, but I wanted to see how much it would cost me.
The best deal you can make is a 12 month fixed rate one – In my opinion and several other experts. So I also clicked on the choice for “fixed rates only”. Be very careful about that – variable rates will look low in the winter, and high in the winter and you will have a much harder time deciding what your yearly cost actually is.
Once I had fixed rates only, with 100% windpower, I chose the ones that looked the best (the best rate). HOWEVER – to get the actual story, you have to click on the link that takes you to the Electricity Facts Label – because this is where the details of the Base Charge is located (think of it as the minimum charge). This is somewhat tedious I admit, and again PTC Customer Service has told me they intend to change the website to include Base Charge details on the front with the Kwh rate, but you have to do so to have any idea what your yearly cost will be.
On a spreadsheet, I wrote the Kwh for each month. Next to it, I wrote the rate for that company. Then I put another column to put info on whether it would incur a base charge for that month. We are such a low use customer that there are only two months of the year we use more than 1000 kwh, and most companies have base charges of $9.99 extra anytime you use less than 1000 kwh. The company I chose (StarTex) had the losest base charge – $4.99 for every month you use less than 499 kwh.
I got quite fancy with an IF Statement because I like to practice my Excel skills. You can do this manually just as easily. I could tell by looking at the EFL if a company was in the running for lowest and narrowed it down to 3. My spreadsheet then figured out for me the total annual cost of each one. The picture below shows the spreadsheet, with the IF statement. The formula to the left of that is just the Kwh of the month times the cost/kilowat – another cell over to the right.
Since you will be doing this every single year, you might consider setting up the spreadsheet. You need to get going tho, because the best time in my opinion to price electricity is the winter – I think the rates are lower. I’m not sure what to do if it is summer now – maybe source the best variable rates til fall? Maybe that’s another topic for another google query – I apologize for publishing this so late. It turned out to be harder to write about than I thought.
Here is my spreadsheet for anyone who can follow:
Under the Star Tex total I put the total of the cheapest non-windpower company and found we will pay $78/yr more for wind power than if we had just gone ‘cheapest’. Considering this is STILL under what we are paying now, I think it a very good trade off for all the environmental benefits. Texas is the largest producer per capita of carbon in the nation – and considering how addicted it is the Air Conditioning and how the majority of Electricity is coal produced, this fact does not surprise me. $78 seems a very small amount to pay per year to push this in a better direction.
I hope you source your electricty supplier soon!