Questions to ask before signing up for Electricity Service

Power-to-choose

 

 

 

You have the power to choose your electricity company in Texas, and with great power comes great responsibility. That responsibility is to yourself to make sure you know what questions to ask yourself or your energy provider regarding your electricity service. Knowledge is power, and questions are the key to gaining knowledge.

 

 

 

  • What does it mean to be crammed or slammed?
    • Cramming is when your retail energy provider (REP) is adding charges to your bill that you did not authorize.
    • Slamming is switching your electricity service from one provider to another without your permission. There is an exception to this, which is if your REP closes down, you are switched to a Provider of Last Resort (POLR) automatically if you do not choose a new provider.
  • If I am switched without authorization, what can I do?
    • The first step is to contact the REP you were switched to and ask them why you were switched. Ask them for a copy of the authorization given for the switch. If they cannot provide one, contact the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) toll free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS or www.puc.texas.gov/consumer.
  • What happens when my contract is near expiration?
    • You must be notified of expiration at least 30 days before the contract is up for renewal.
    • You may switch your provider or plan without penalty within 14 days of the expiration date.
    • If you do nothing when up for renewal, your current REP will continue service with a monthly plan.
  • Can I be back-billed or re-billed?
    • If there is an error on behalf of the REP or you did not receive a bill, the REP can re-bill you within 180 days of the original bill date.
    • If a correction of charges is greater than $50, you can request a deffered payment plan.
    • If your electricity meter was tampered with, the REP can re-bill you even after 180 days.
  • Is it possible my bill has been estimated?
    • If your REP does not receive a meter reading from your utility, they may estimate the amount of energy used based on your usage history. As soon as the meter is read again, your next bill will be adjusted to account for the estimate versus the actual usage.
    • Generally, you cannot receive an estimated bill more than three billing cycles in a row.
  • A deposit has been charged to my bank! What can I do?
    • Your REP may require a good credit history to provide service. In this case, a deposit of no more than 1/5th the estimated annual billing or the sum of estimated billings for the next two months.
  • What is the AMS meter charge?
    • If your home has a smart meter, utilities can assess this surcharge to recover the cost of the meter.
  • What are the causes of service disconnection?
    • If a bill, payment plan, or deposit is not paid, service may be disconnected after proper notice. The service cannot be disconnected on or before the disconnection date listed in the notice.
  • What can I do if I have trouble paying my bill?
    • If you are having trouble paying your bill, contact your REP to set up a payment plan before your service is disconnected. You will be eligible for a deferred payment plan if you have not received more than two termination notices in the past year. If you are unable to keep up with the payment plan, however, your service could be disconnected.
    • If you have a medical condition that requires electricity use, you can have your physician that ordered the electric device contact your REP by phone and send a written statement. You will then be able to enter a deferred payment plan for the balance due.
  • I want to choose a better date to pay my bill by, can I do that?
    • Most REPs allow you to set your own due date, but if they do not, it will be due 16 days after the date the bill was issued.
  • If I cancel my service before my contract ends, will I face a penalty?
    • Your REP will list any early termination fees in the Electricity Facts Label (EFL) in your plan’s documentation. However, you can change your plan or provider within 14 days of the contract end date and not face a penalty.
  • Can I prepay for service?
    • If your REP offers prepaid billing, you can pay for the estimated usage before the billing cycle, and your REP will account for under and overpayments periodically.
  • Who can see the information I provide to my REP?
    • Your REP will share your information (including name, address, and billing information) with your utility and potentially a billing company, if the REP does not do their own billing. Any company this information is shared with must sign a nondisclosure agreement to prevent leaked information.
    • Your information could also be shared with PUCT regarding oversight of your REP, a consumer reporting agency, an energy assistance agency, or local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
    • Your REP may share information regarding name and address for the purposes of marketing other products and services to you. The REP must provide an opportunity for you to opt out of this type of information sharing.
    • Some REPs may require you to release information for the purposes of marketing before providing electricity service, but you always retain the power to choose a REP that does not require this.

Energy Efficient Grocery Store by Recycling food

cheap-electricity

Have you ever gone through the produce section and wondered to yourself “What do they do with the produce that doesn’t get sold or goes bad?” Probably more often than not, it is simply thrown out. While it does seem like a waste of food, at least it’s all biodegradable, right? Fortunately, most supermarkets reduce food waste as much as possible with “Sell By,” “Best By,” and “Expiration” dates.

Food that doesn’t get sold before the “Sell By” date may get sent to another department in the store where it can be turned into part of a ready made meal, as long as it is before the “Best By” date. If food begins to rot, it’s reached “Expiration” and is tossed. One Sainsbury’s supermarket in the United Kingdom took things one step further when it comes to expired food. The store has partnered with Biffa, a waste management company to turn food waste into power. Sainsbury’s takes its food waste from all of their stores in the UK and brings them to Biffa in Staffordshire to be converted into biogas, which is burned to power the Sainsbury’s store in Cannock.

Paul Crewe, Sainsbury’s head of sustainability explained that “Sainsbury’s sends absolutely no waste to landfill . . . ,” and the company is really committed to living up to that in every way. Because of this partnership with Biffa, the Cannock store can fully disconnect from the national electricity grid and power itself fully on the chain’s waste. To take it another step further still, because of their commitment not to send waste to landfills, food that is unsold but still suitable for consumption is donated to charitable organizations. If it’s unsuitable for human consumption, some foods are turned into animal feed for safari parks. Anything beyond that, like rotted food, is sent to Biffa to be processed into biogas through anaerobic digestion.

Anaerobic digestion is a process by which bacteria consume organic matter in a tank devoid of oxygen. The bacteria expels the biogas, primarily methane, which is a greenhouse gas worse than carbon dioxide. However, when methane is burned, the carbon dioxide released is carbon neutral because it is part of the natural carbon cycle. The natural carbon cycle consists of leaves converting CO2 to oxygen, which is inhaled by humans and animals, and exhaled as CO2, or when any living thing dies, plant and animal alike, it decays as carbon emissions to be recycled into oxygen by plants. Thus, Sainsbury’s store is able to provide itself with cheap electricity while not only eliminating waste products, but waste emissions as well.