Are You Paying Too Much On Your Electric Bill?

Texas is leading the nation in Energy Deregulation. Because of the planning and implementation of a very efficient Energy Deregulation and Operating System by the Texas Legislature, Texans can now enjoy the benefits of competition. Texas created the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

The mission of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is to direct and ensure reliable and cost-effective operation of the electric grid and to enable fair and efficient market-driven solutions to meet customers’ electric service needs.

The ERCOT grid covers approximately 75 percent of the land area in Texas.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to approximately 20 million Texas customers – representing 85 percent of the state’s electric load and 75 percent of the Texas land area.

As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects 38,000 miles of transmission lines and more than 500 generation units.

ERCOT also manages financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers customer switching for 5.9 million Texans in competitive choice areas.

Balanced market rules are a basic element in Texas competition. Clear, predictable and well-designed rules help foster a stable electricity market. Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market rules are developed by participants from all aspects of the electricity industry. The rules and amendments are reviewed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas to ensure that they satisfy the public interest.

WHY COMPETITION?

Texas lawmakers changed state law to allow customers to have more control over their purchase of electric service because they believe competition is good for Texas. Over time, competition for electric service is expected to lower rates and speed the development of new products and services.

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

In the past, one company provided all parts of your electric service (generation, transmission and distribution, and retail sales). With competition, these parts are separated into different companies. Generation, or production of electricity, was deregulated in 1995, resulting in an ample supply of new, cleaner and more efficient power plants throughout Texas.
The actual delivery of electricity across poles and wires to your home is called transmission and distribution. These services are provided to you by your local wires company, which is responsible for maintaining the poles and wires, and responding to emergencies and power outages as always. The Public Utility Commission continues to regulate transmission and distribution to ensure the safety and reliability of your electric service.
With electric competition, Retail Electric Providers sell electricity to you and provide functions such as customer service and billing. Retail Electric Providers compete for your business by offering lower prices, renewable energy options, added customer service benefits or other incentives.
No matter which Retail Electric Provider provides your service, the Public Utility Commission continues to enforce customer protections and regulate the delivery of electricity to ensure it is delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company .

Competition also is expected to create new jobs, stimulate economic development and help our environment.

CUSTOMER RIGHTS

All Retail Electric Providers must adhere to Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) rules and regulations designed to protect you against fraudulent, unfair, misleading, discriminatory or anti-competitive practices.

These protections include:

Non-Discrimination: In addition to standard discrimination prohibitions, a Retail Electric Provider may not deny service or discriminate in the marketing of electric service based on a customer’s income level, location in an economically distressed area, or qualification for low-income or energy efficiency services.

Slamming and Cramming: Slamming is switching your electric service provider without your permission. Cramming is adding charges to your electric bill for additional services without your permission. Both slamming and cramming are illegal.

Dispute Resolution: Retail Electric Providers must promptly investigate customer complaints and customers have the right to make complaints about a Retail Electric Provider to the PUC.

Privacy of Information: No Retail Electric Provider can release any customer-specific information to another Retail Electric Provider or any other companies without your permission.

Safety and Reliability: No matter which Retail Electric Provider you choose, the Public Utility Commission continues to enforce customer protections and regulate the delivery of electricity to ensure it is delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company.

DELIVERY OF ELECTRICITY

When you choose a new electric provider, you are choosing the company that provides or sells you electricity – a company called a Retail Electric Provider. These companies purchase electricity from competing power plants, and electricity is delivered to your home or business over the same poles and wires that are in your neighborhood today.
The actual delivery of the electricity (“transmission and distribution”) is still provided by your local utility, now called a local wires company. In a competitive electric market, your local wires company will continue to be responsible for maintaining the poles and wires that deliver electricity to your home or business. You and your neighbors can all have different Retail Electric Providers, but you all have the same local wires company.
An important message from the Commissioners regarding Electric Choice and the reliability of your electric service. – 01/05

REPAIRS AND EMERGENCIES

If you experience an emergency or power outage, you may call:
Your Retail Electric Provider, who will work with the local wires company to repair the problem, or connect you to your local wires company.
The number for repairs and emergencies printed on your electric bill.
Your local wires company as you do today.

KHOU-TV CH-11 NEWS

HOUSTON, TEXAS (June 6, 2006 Transcript)

Families across our area can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars if they would only switch to an
energy provider that charges less. But you know what, most people just won’t switch and we’ve wondered
why. 11 News reporter Jeremy Diesel shows us what he’s uncovered. You have the power to choose.
Power that can literally save you hundreds of dollars a year on your bill. But in the four years since electricity deregulation began in Texas only a little more than 25% of people in the Houston area have left Reliant Energy, even though the price it’s forced to charge is generally the highest.

Minnie Lee Coleman is like so many others. ” If it gets unbearable here I will cut it off and just sacrifice
something else to pay my electric bill. Because paying half and part I don’t do that.” Last night she told
us she’s willing to sacrifice. But not willing to leave Reliant for a cheaper price. “I don’t trust them. And
that’s it.”

But why?

Houston Mayor Bill White is hoping to educate. “They should not question reliability as far as keeping
the lights on or what happens if there is a storm — who is going to turn back on the power.”
Here’s the deal, when deregulation happened five years ago, Reliant Energy divided into two completely
separate companies. Reliant which sells power and Centerpoint which delivers it. CenterPoint
owns the lines which carry power, maintain them and reads the meter no matter who your power
provider is.

Come storm time, its CenterPoint which restores power to those who lose it. Not the power provider
you pay. All of the power companies Reliant, TXU, Green Mountain, Commerce and more than a dozen
others all put their power on the Texas grid. Its then used by everyone. Your meter read by CenterPoint
shows the amount you used. CenterPoint forwards that information to your provider who bills you.
“Who you buy your power from does not affect the reliability of that power. But it can affect your
bottom line.

Questions – General
Q: What has stayed the same in electric service?

A: Your current Transmission and Distribution Utility, or “local wires company,” continues to deliver electricity to your home. Your local wires company still responds to service interruptions and continues to maintain the poles and wires. You will continue to receive the same reliable service you are used to with your local wires company, regardless of which Retail Electric Provider you receive service from.

Q: What has changed in electric service?

A: You can now choose to buy your electricity from a different electric provider than the original provider for your area. These companies are called Retail Electric Providers. Additionally, your bill now looks different than bills you have received in the past, but each Retail Electric Provider provides the same standard information.

Q: Do all Texans have the power to choose their electric provider?

A: No. City-owned utilities and member-owned electric cooperatives have the option of giving their customers a choice of providers, or keeping things the way they are today. To see if competition is active in your area call toll-free 1-866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839).

Q: What are the benefits of Electric Choice?

A: Texas’ electric rates are average, compared to the rest of the country, but our usage is among the highest in the nation due to demand for air conditioning during the long, hot summer season. Competition in other industries has often brought lower prices and innovative, new products and services. Having more control over your buying decision should make it easier to determine what matters most to you, whether it’s prices, renewable energy, customer service, or simply a name you know.
Electric competition also should help the environment because Retail Electric Providers must offer some energy from renewable energy sources. Renewable energy – such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass (gas released from landfills) – produce less air pollution than sources that rely on burning coal or natural gas.
The Texas power market is one of the most attractive in the country for new investment. Forty-seven new power plants have been built or are being built in Texas since 1995 (that’s almost one-fourth of all power plants being built or planned in the nation). The properties represent a $10 billion investment in Texas. These plants provide jobs and sales and tax revenue into local Texas communities.

Q: How does Electric Choice affect electric rates?

A: The base rates for residential and small commercial customers of investor-owned utilities in Texas were frozen from September 1, 1999, to December 31, 2002. On January 1, 2002, rates for most of these customers were lowered, creating the “Price to Beat.” The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider cannot charge above this rate until it loses 40 percent of its customers or five years pass, whichever comes first.

Q: If electric rates are frozen, why does my electric bill rise?

A: Texas law allows the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider (the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity) to ask the PUC to adjust the “fuel factor” portion of its rate when there are significant changes in the market price of natural gas and purchased energy. These requests, which may be made twice a year, are subject to PUC review and approval. The cost of natural gas has increased significantly over the last year, and fuel factors have been increased to reflect the higher cost of natural gas. For more information on how natural gas prices change please review Questions and Answers Regarding Natural Gas Prices.
The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is prohibited from making a profit on fuel costs. Competitive (or new to the area) Retail Electric Providers set their own electric service rates.

Q: With competition, will the reliability of my electric service change?

A: No. No matter which Retail Electric Provider you choose, your electricity will continue to be delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company, a company still regulated by the PUC.

Q: How does the new competition law protect the environment?

A: The law requires “grandfathered” power plants (those that predate the 1971 Texas Clean Air Act) to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions by at least 50 percent and sulfur dioxide by 25 percent before May 1, 2003.
Encourages upgrade or retirement of older power plants to meet emissions standards by allowing utilities to recoup the costs of retrofitting or retiring certain older power plants.
Provides incentives for energy efficiency programs that will result in less demand for the production of electricity.
Requires retail electric providers to buy an additional combined 2,000 megawatts of Texas renewable electric generation capacity statewide by January 2009, from sources that include wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass or geothermal.

Q: Do I have to switch from my current electric utility?

A: No. If you decide not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, your service will be provided by the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider. The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity and provides customer service.

Questions – Changing Providers

Q: Is there a penalty for changing providers?

A: There is no switching fee unless you request a special meter reading at a time other than your regularly scheduled meter reading. There may also be penalties if you break an existing contract with your current Retail Electric Provider. Review your Terms of Service agreement for details.

Q: If I sign up with a new Retail Electric Provider, when will the switch to that company happen?

A: Customers can choose a Retail Electric Provider at any time; however, you will not begin to receive power from your new Retail Electric Provider until after your next regularly scheduled meter reading. Before you are switched, you will receive written confirmation in the mail. You will receive your first electric bill from your new Retail Electric Provider on the following billing cycle.

Q: Do I have a right to cancel?

A: Yes. You may cancel within three days from when you receive your Terms of Service agreement by contacting the Retail Electric Provider. If you are hand-delivered a terms of service agreement or you sign up for service using the Internet, there is a three-day cancellation period. The confirmation that will be mailed to you will also provide a way to cancel your switch.

Q: What happens if my Retail Electric Provider stops serving customers?

A: You will not be without electricity. Your Retail Electric Provider must give you 30 days’ advance notice to give you time to select a new provider. However, if you do not choose a new provider, your service will automatically be switched to the Provider of Last Resort for your area.

Q: If I do not choose an electric provider, who will supply my electricity?

A: If you decided not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, your service is being provided by the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider. The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity and provides customer service.

Questions – Why is Texas different from California

Although Texas and California have similarly sized electric grids and similar growth in power demand, Texas put more than eight times the capacity online between 1996 and 1999 than California added.
The Texas power plant permitting process has a lead-time of two to three years to construct new power plants, while California’s lead-time is approximately seven years. Since 1995, 47 new power plants have been built or are being built in Texas, representing one-fourth of all power plants being built in the nation. California has built only two power plants since 1995.
New plant construction will allow power generators to easily meet the needs of residential and non-residential power users in our state.

Texas imports less than 1 percent of its power during peak power demand, compared to California, which imports at least 25 percent of its load during peak demand.
Long-term wholesale market contracts in Texas shield customers from price volatility. In Texas, power generators and Retail Electric Providers can negotiate wholesale power purchases for the lowest price, which benefits customers.

Texas enacted strong measures to protect customers during the transition to a fully competitive retail electric market. These measures have kept a lid on electric rates so Texas electric customers won’t see their electric bill double or triple.

What To Do About All The Different Facts Health And Fitness Studies Show

This is a long title as it should be. Studies done on health and fitness are abundant. It gets crazy sometimes. Just when you think you discovered the perfect answer along comes another study that comes up with a different result!I was reading my American Council On Exercise magazine that just came in the mail. They shared a new study that concluded that lifting lightweights with high repetitions actually causes more muscle development than doing heavyweights with low repetitions.A great discovery! As you read the last paragraph of the article you have to scratch your head. It states that by doing high repetitions your fascia (fibrous tissue under your skin) is compromised and therefore the paragraph suggest the functional benefits of lifting light weights with high repetitions is not as healthy for your body.Okay so you look great but your supportive fascia structure does not get used in enough directions to keep it healthy is what they are saying. Now if that is not confusing what is?I always wonder why even write the article in such a manner. Why not start with the fact that lifting lightweights with high repetitions may make you look great but is not the best method for your body’s functionality so if you want to look good lift lightweights with high repetitions but if you want to be healthy and avoid muscle and skeletal problems do not.Lifting the heaviest weight you can for ten repetitions was all the rage a few years ago. Then lifting lightweights very slowly came into the limelight. So what is a girl suppose to do?I say this over and over to my clients. Moderation is key. Studies are important and I hope they go on but getting away from moderation is not a good plan.What I learned from reading the article was that it is important to work your muscles in various angles so switching up your strength training routines is important which is what I have always believed and shared. I now have one more reason why that is a good idea.What to do about all the studies? If you are a professional consider the possibilities. If you are not and just want to be healthy work with a trainer or use a program that is not extreme. Moderation is key! If you want to read studies make sure you read lots of them that agree before you consider the information as being accurate and even then stay moderate.

Health and Fitness an Under Rated Commodity

Where did the term health nut come from? When did it become unreasonable to take care of your body without being labeled narcissistic, shallow, in love with ourselves? We are our bodies are we not? Our brains reside within our body and our mind within our brain so why is it accepted to develop our minds and ignore the needs of our bodies as if our body will just automatically be alright no matter how much neglect and abuse it suffers. For centuries we have watched the ones that went before us deteriorate to feeble, weak, shells of themselves suffering all forms of maladies in old age, now granted for most of that time living conditions were primitive and brutal for the majority of people, not having much of a choice in nutrition or opportunities to practice healthy lifestyles while living in ignorance, poverty, subjecting their bodies to backbreaking manual labor just to eke out an existence not a life and most never saw old age, dying in their thirties and forties broken and spent with nothing to show for their suffering. Now for the first time starting in the twentieth century man has the opportunity to take advantage of the advances made to better life, labor saving machines, reduced work hours going from dawn to dark to nine to five, giving us more free time than ever, but with these advances there is also many time wasting technologies. It seems people have no sense of balance, there is only excess, in earlier times excess and overwhelming abuse of the body through forced daily manual labor which took its toll.Too much work didn’t make Jack a dough boy, it destroyed his body and health, but hard work wasn’t the culprit, it was the lack of down time between the periods of hard work that prevented his body from recovering and rebuilding itself. The body does not improve in health, energy, strength and size during hard physical exertion, this can only take place during periods of rest or light activity, so if the body is driven to exhaustion day in day out for weeks, months, and years on end the body will eventually succumb to injury, disease, and death. This is over training, if you will, taken to an extreme degree, but now we have swung to the opposite extreme, excess leisure or the pursuit of it, pampering ourselves, taking advantage of every labor saving opportunity we can as if physical exertion is a sign of stupidity and a lack of intellect or ingenuity, we pat ourselves on the back for our clever avoidance of exerting ourselves. This mindset has spawned a prevalence of inaction, we see people circling parking lots to park as close to a store as possible as if a walk from the outer parking lots would constitute a breach of their god given right to expend as little effort as possible. People will opt for the elevator than climb one or two flights of stairs, walk instead of run, sit instead of stand, lie down instead of sit and sleep if the opportunity is there. Lazy, there I said it, would our ancestors have done the same given the opportunity? you bet they would. What is this preoccupation with total inactivity being the definitive description of utopia? We know from our forefathers that too much hard work is bad for us. Notice I said( too much) hard work not hard work, because the body was designed for work, even hard work, it just requires periods of inactivity to recover before it is ready again, but we have taken the more is better theory to excess, we reason if rest is good than more rest is better and the more we avoid exerting ourselves is the best. As another saying goes, too much of anything is bad for you, so as bad as working yourself to death with no end in sight is, so is the pursuit of avoiding physical exertion at all costs, the all or nothing mentality. Now instead of watching the ones before us work themselves into an early grave, we watch them gradually deteriorate, getting smaller, weaker, losing their independence and human dignity due to a reluctance to exercise their bodies when they were younger and to keep it up into old age. The excuses, I don’t have time, I have real things to worry about, its too much work, its boring. These are the four biggest reasons given to avoid exercise, lets examine them one at a time. I don’t have time. Are you actively involved every minute of the day every day?You can’t find thirty minutes two to three times a week? That’s sixty to ninety minutes out of ten thousand and eighty minutes in a seven day week or one to one and a half hours out of one hundred and sixty eight possible hours, now lets subtract fifty six hours for eight hours of sleep for seven days, then subtract forty hours for work in a week, then subtract four hours each day for commuting, family, daily things that need to be done in a week, then subtract four hours each day for leisure, family, and friends, that leaves us with sixteen hours and we only need one to one and a half hours of that time which leaves us with an excess of fourteen and a half hours that we can devote to any of the other areas of our weekly schedule. I have real things to worry about. We all have real things to worry about, but stress without a release is a real killer combined with a bad diet and reluctance to exertion. Instead of fretting and worrying every minute of the day, wouldn’t some of that time be better spent working some of it off? Worrying never solved anything if the problem is out of your hands and if you can fix it do so, but sometimes taking time away from a problem can give us the break we need to see more clearly how to resolve it, that is why some of the most successful people are able to overcome obstacles in their path by means of constructive distractions like exercise. Socrates was right about the belief of a strong body and mind with one contributing to the health of the other to the betterment of both. Sometimes by overcoming a physical obstacle such as being overweight or achieving a strength goal or a more attractive physique can have a carry over effect on the psyche instilling a confidence in one’s ability to change their situation and equate work with positive results. Its too much work. It takes less time and volume than you might think to improve for the better. We are talking about brief, hard work with adequate rest between workouts combined with walking and a healthy diet to round it out. A typical workout would consist of twelve to fifteen total sets in a given workout of thirty to forty five minutes and half that time would be spent resting between sets, so we are talking about twelve to fifteen minutes of actual exercise with a minute of rest between each set, not a bad investment to good health and quality of life into and throughout old age. Its boring. So are most jobs but we do them for far less noble reasons like money, short lived security, food, and shelter which can be taken away at anytime at the whim of our employer. We pour all this energy and time into an activity that only takes our dreams, desires, and lives and pushes family, friends, personal pursuits, health, and fitness to the side leaving us wanting to escape in distraction, recreation and inactivity which if unstructured gives us no sense of control over any aspect of our lives in a positive constructive way that could let us express our selves and have a sense of worthwhile accomplishment. Old age is also very boring when burdened with poor health, limited mobility, shriveled muscles, weakness, low or no energy, taking handfuls of medications from multiple expensive prescriptions that compete in their budget with groceries, trapped in a body they deemed too low on their priorities in younger years to take care of that now no longer works like it should, limiting their quality and enjoyment of life, all these so called effects of old age of which under most cases could have been prevented or substantially reduced by a little exercise and foresight. Most people remind me of the cattle section of a slaughter house, they see what happens to the cow ahead of them yet remain unaffected and even if given the opportunity to avoid the same dire consequences step forward to suffer the same fate. Please don’t be a cow, open your eyes to the fact that old age does not have to go hand in hand with loss of health, mobility, strength, muscle size, energy, and dignity. Refuse the stupid advice to act your age as if you are embarrassing yourself by being strong, fit, energetic, and healthy at an age when most are starting to lose it all and don’t want the fact underscored and don’t want you to go around as an example of what they could have if they weren’t so lazy.Do yourself possibly the biggest and smartest favor of your life by deciding to take care of your body now to prevent problems usually associated with old age by recognizing they really stem from laziness, inactivity, neglect, and abuse of bad dietary habits, smoking, excessive alcohol, and drug use. You can be fit at any age, its up to you.