Since 2002, the majority of Texans have chosen their own Retail Electric Provider (REP) – the middleman that buys electricity wholesale, then sells it to you, the consumer. To show you how to pick the best REP, we focused on five of the state’s largest electricity companies to explore everything you'll have to evaluate when you're comparing plans and providers. We’ve assessed customer satisfaction scores, run the numbers on rates, and calculated the impact of different fees, discounts, and contract types. We'll weigh in on extra perks and green energy too.
At the end of the day, though, our take on these five Texas REPs is just a place to start. You’ll still need to wrap your head around your home’s energy use, scour the fine print, and crunch the numbers on the plans and providers available in your area. Start shopping around using our ZIP code tool.
How we chose the best Texas Energy companies High customer satisfaction
Some good news: According to J.D. Power, Texas has the highest overall satisfaction with retail electric providers out of any state. And because rates, plans, and offers can be so similar from provider to provider, customer satisfaction scores are a great way to break a tie. Think of it like choosing who to hire when you have two candidates with similar resumes — you’re going to pick the person with the glowing references.
Similarities and differences
While there are some outliers, we ultimately discovered more similarities than differences in our five contenders. The real nuance from provider to provider and from plan to plan is how nicely rates, fees, and discounts play with your home's typical energy use. In that way, picking an energy plan is a lot like picking a credit card.
Range of options
Just like credit card companies, all five Texas Energy providers we looked at offer a wide range of options — typically a couple renewable energy plans, a few month-to-month plans with variable rates, and between four and 10 fixed-rate plans with contracts available for anywhere from six months to three years.
Cost per kilowatt hour
The majority of providers quote between 8.0 and 15.0 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) — all within 4.0 cents of the average retail cost of energy in Texas (11.51 cents per kWh).
And across providers, similar plans follow similar patterns: Longer contracts have higher cancellation fees. Green energy plans tend to be slightly spendier. Wondrous-sounding discounts, like free energy weekends, are usually offset with higher rates. We took all this into consideration with our reviews.
The 5 Best Texas Energy Companies Constellation Why we chose it High ratings
Of the five Texas Energy companies we looked at, Constellation (previously known as StarTex Power) is by far the standout, earning four out of five J.D. Power Circles and scoring 749 out of 1,000 for overall customer satisfaction. That’s a full Power Circle and 15 points higher than its closest competitor, Direct Energy, and well above the Texas average of 730 points.
Break down the scoring into each category of J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction survey — enrollment and renewal, billing and payment, price, communications, corporate citizenship, and customer service — and you can see where Constellation’s strong reputation comes from.
Another resource the Texas government supplies is a breakdown of customer complaints by type and by provider. Constellation had only 58 total complaints between October 2018 and March 2019 — less than half as many as the 128 filed against TXU.
The complaints filed against providers aren’t a perfect mirror of the J.D. Power customer satisfaction scores. Just Energy, which earned only two J.D. Power Circles and earned the second-lowest score, had only 21 complaints recorded with the Public Utility Commission. But it's helpful to view these complaints in aggregate: More than 50 percent of the 1591 total complaints fall under “billing” — another reason to seek out a provider with high customer satisfaction in that area in particular.
Inexpensive green plan
Although Constellation does not specialize in green energy, its green 12-month plan was one of its more reasonably priced, at 10.9 cents/kWh, based on 1000 kWh monthly use. The plan is 100 percent wind power, which we like, but you get dinged with a $9.95 fee if you use less than 999 kWh in the month. If you don’t use much electricity, this probably isn’t the plan for you: Average kWh goes up to 13.4 cents if you only use 500 kWh/month. But for consumers who use significantly more energy, this is a fairly inexpensive way to get your power while doing something good for the environment.
Points to consider Recent corporate change
This company has seen some significant changes in the past decade. In 2011, Constellation Energy bought the highly-rated electricity company StarTex Power. In 2018, Constellation phased out the company name and absorbed it into its own corporate structure. Constellation is owned by Exelon Corporation, which comes with some baggage, ranking high on the PERI Toxic 100 list. StarTex was the winner of numerous awards for ethical practices and customer satisfaction, but it remains to be seen if Exelon will continue in that tradition.
Possibly related to our first point to consider, we found the Constellation website difficult to use, running into the dreaded 404 page more than once. Even when it worked, it was convoluted. To get to a page that allowed you to compare different electricity plans for Texas, for example, required multiple clicks, confirmation of your ZIP code, input of address info, and answering questions that were unnecessary for an initial search.
Reliant Why we chose it Minimal incentive for high usage
When we sorted through plans from our five providers to see how their packages compared, Reliant Energy stood out. It offers a number of plans that only offer minimal price incentives to use more energy.
Several plans, including the “Truly Free Weekends 12” plan and the “Truly Free Nights 12” planFeature only about a cent difference between the 500 kWh/month rate and the 2,000 kWh/month rate. And both these plans include free electricity on nights or weekends—so if you travel during the week and are only home to crank up the AC on weekends, you might save money with the weekend “Truly Free” plan.
Google Home Hub and more
Reliant’s two “Truly Free” plans have another plus: Sign up for a year of service and you’ll receive a $149 Google Home Hub for free. This IA assistant, similar to Amazon’s Alexa, can help you manage your Reliant account, among other things. Incentives for picking other plans include a Nest Learning Thermostat with the “Learn and Conserve” plans, and sports incentives such as an autographed Clint Capela basketball or $100 Adidas gift card.
Points to consider High early cancellation fees
Most of Reliant’s fixed-rate plans have an early cancellation fee of $150, which is on the high side (note that variable-rate plans don’t have cancellation fees). But the Secure Advantage 24 plan includes an even higher $295 fee for early cancellation. The company markets this as a “no-frills” plan that is “perfect for medium to high-usage customers,” and your price is locked in for the 24 months of the contract. Just be aware that you could be in for a hefty fine if you try to escape the contract early.
Website can be misleading
Reliant doesn’t have a bad website, and it’s easy to scroll through their plan options, but be aware that the numbers they give you are the average price per kWh. If you dive deeper into the fine print, you’ll find out more about how they get that “average” number. Let’s look at the “Truly Free Nights 12” plan as an example. Average price per kWh ranges from 14.8-13.9 cents. But in reality, in order to recoup its expenses incurred by offering free nights, the company is actually charging you 18.37 cents per kWh during the day. Add that to a $5.47 monthly charge and a daytime delivery charge of 3.68 cents per kWh, divide by the kilowatts used per month, and you get your average number. You may still save money with this plan, but it’s definitely worth reviewing the numbers carefully.
Direct Energy Why we chose it Good rewards program
Who doesn’t like to get something extra every now and then? Direct Energy’s plans have some nice rewards, and their reasonable rates give you more for your money. The “Weekends on Command 24” plan, for example, locks you in to a fairly low rate (currently 12.7 cents/kWh) with free electricity from Friday at 6:00 p.m. to Sunday at 11:59 p.m., and you’ll receive an Echo Dot when you sign up. Other plans offer you a Hive View smart camera (the “Connect to Detect 24” plan) or, if you really want to feel good about yourself, a donation made in your name to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, with the “Brighter Miracles 12” plan.
Wide range of plans
If you like having a broad range of choices to choose from, Direct Energy is a good option. Its 12 Texas electric plans feature a range of plan lengths, from 12 to 36 months, fixed- and variable- rate options, your choice of rewards with the various plans, and plans with free weekends and evenings.
Direct Energy offers a military discount exclusively to members of the U.S. military community and their dependents. You’ll need to fill out a short verification form including your branch of service and current status in order to access rates and other information. We recommend that you check it out if you are eligible.
Points to consider Spotty customer interactions
Consumer websites give Direct Energy mixed reviews for customer service. Some of the problems seem to stem from poorly trained door-to-door salespeople who work on commission, and thus employ a harder sell tactic than is acceptable — and may, according to many reviews, be promising things they can’t deliver on. Having said that, TexasElectricityratings.com gives the company a four-star rating out of five, based on 360 reviews and Consumer Affairs gives it 4.1 stars out of five—so some of their customers are getting good support.
TXU Energy Why we chose it More variety in plans
Most Texas Energy companies have fairly standard plan options: a few fixed-rate month-to-month plans, a couple variable plans with 12-36 month contracts, and maybe a green plan or two. TXU Energy offers some nice variation on the theme. For example, four of its nine plans include at least partial solar energy, with one, “Free Nights and Solar Days 12” featuring 100 percent solar, plus free nights, from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Others, like the “Texas Choice” plans, give you rebates of three percent each year. The “e-Saver 12” plan, meanwhile, offers a discounted rate for autopay, paperless billing, and an app that lets you manage your account online.
Free Pass plan
One plan that stood out to us, and that none of our other top picks included, is called the “Free Pass 12” plan. It gives you whatever seven days you use the most electricity for free, every month, automatically. We liked the flexibility in this plan: You’re not anchored to specific times for, say, running the dishwasher or laundry, as you might be with free night or weekend plans. If you use 2,000 kWh a month, the rate is 14.7 cents—not the cheapest rate that the company offers, but definitely worth sitting down with a calculator and last month’s bill to see if this might give you an edge on the savings.
We liked TXU Energy’s online dashboard. It allows you to do all the basics, like paying your bill and reviewing your energy usage for the past day/week/month. If you like to dive into the figures, though, you can also fill out a short questionnaire and review the stats at a granular level to get a sense of just how much electricity that old refrigerator is gobbling up.
Points to consider High base charges
We spotted higher-than-average base charges with TXU—despite the homepage of their website boasting that you can “forget hidden fees” with the company. Even the “e-Saver 12” plan has a $6.95 base fee, and for most of their plans the base fee is $9.95. Be sure you take advantage of paperless billing and autopay discounts if you can.
Other fees that are similarly unavoidable, but worth being wary of with any electricity company: fees for late or returned payments, and fees for payments processed over the phone. All fees will be disclosed in the Disclosure Chart section of the plan’s EFL, or in the plan’s Terms of Service Agreement.
Just Energy Why we chose it All plans can be green
Just Energy doesn’t have as many plans as some of our other contenders, but each of its five plans has the ability to morph into a 100% green energy plan for an additional $5.00 a month. The company purchases Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from sources including hydro, solar, and wind power. To date, it has offset more than five million metric tons of carbon emissions through this program, which the company equates to removing one million cars from the road for a year.
Just Energy customers have access to the company’s Perks Rewards Program. Members earn 2,500 points for enrolling in the program, and add to that by paying their bill on time, so it’s easy to rack up a nice stack of points. What do you do with them? Redeem them for energy-saving devices, shopping and dining gift cards, or Visa prepaid cards.
Just Energy had a couple of small benefits that might not be world-changing, but do speak to a company that values its customers. For example, if you call and are put on hold for more than five minutes, the company will send you a Visa prepaid card. It also claims that it will waive your exit fees if you call them first before cancelling your plan. You’ll probably have to put up with a sales pitch during that call, but it means a possible reduction of $175 for you if you leave as intended.
Points to consider Mixed reviews
Much like Direct Energy, consumer review sites feature decidedly mixed reviews of Just Energy. Consumer Affairs gives it a three out of five star rating with 174 reviews submitted in the last year (as of publish time for this piece). And just like with Direct Energy, a number of poor reviews are related to tactics used by Just Energy door-to-door salespeople; phone and online conversations seem more satisfactory. The Better Business Bureau reiterated this pattern of complaint related to unsolicited calls, giving it one and half out of five stars on 66 customer reviews. It’s worth noting that Just Energy does have a reasonable response on the BBB website noting improvements made, and the company is also quite responsive to complaints on other review sites.
Guide to Texas Energy Companies How to choose a Texas Energy Company Read the fine print
When you shop for electricity plans, you're typically served up a slew of options with catchy names and the price per kWh you'll pay.
Or will you?
The real pricing details live in each plan's Electricity Facts Label (EFL), which breaks down the cost of the energy you're buying, additional charges, and the rules for any discounts you'll earn or fees you'll have to pay. If advertised estimated price is a plan's best-case scenario, the EFL is the stone-cold truth.
For example, if you use a small amount of energy each month, you expect to be rewarded — right? Unfortunately, nearly all electricity plans from Texas REPs are advertised as costing more per kWh the less electricity you use. It’s a little like buying in bulk: Providers often discount your bill when you cross certain kWh thresholds.
For instance, one 12-month plan from Constellation quotes 9.9 cents per kWh for 1,000 kWh a month and 10.6 cents for 2,000 kWh per month, but 13.9 cents for 500 kWh per month. Why the difference? In this case, using half as much electricity as your neighbor on the same plan wouldn’t get you half the bill.
Know your fees
Pretty much every energy provider is going to have some sort of fee hidden in at least one of its plans. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad plan — just like an annual fees for a credit card don’t automatically make it a bad credit card — but it's important to know how fees will impact your bill as you parse through the different options in your area.
There are four that make regular appearances on the EFLs of all energy providers.
TDU Delivery Charge: TDU stands for transmission and delivery utility — in other words, the utility company in your area that is actually piping the energy from the power generation companies into your home. (Remember, REPs in Texas are just the middleman.) The TDU delivery charge is set by the utility and is consistent from plan to plan and provider to provider within its service areas. For example, AEP, the TDU for Corpus Christi, charges the same delivery fee for all TXU, Direct Energy, and Reliant plans. You don't typically get a choice in utility company, and therefore, these fees are pretty much unavoidable, non-negotiable, and won't factor into choosing an electricity plan or provider. Minimum Usage Fees: Often set at or around 1,000 kWh/month, these fees mean you’ll always pay for at least that amount — even if you only use, say, 800 kWh of electricity some months. It sounds nasty, but it’s only something to be concerned about if your electricity bills historically show you hover right around that minimum use threshold. If your electricity use always exceeds that amount, it’s like it’s not even there. Base Charges: An upfront cost that creates the foundation of each billing cycle. A good rule of thumb: No base charge is usually better for your bottom line, but it’s worth it to do the math. Cancellation Fees: Many plans build in a monetary safety net in the event that you break your contract. You'll usually only see these fees attached to fixed-rate plans, and they can range anywhere from $50 to $300. Other fees that are similarly unavoidable, but worth being wary of: Fees for late or returned payments and fees for payments processed over the phone. All fees will be disclosed in the Disclosure Chart section of the plan’s EFL, or in the plan’s Terms of Service Agreement. Ask questions
There’s a lot of data and information to process when you’re looking for the best Texas Energy company. Not all of it is readily available on the web, or easily found on company websites. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the rep you’re working with. Start with this one: if you’re signing up for a fixed rate plan, ask what happens at the end of your contract. Some providers will automatically enroll you into a month-to-month contract if your original contract expires and you don't re-up or cancel service — and those rates tend to be much higher.
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