Experts: Energy rates not always clear

July 24, 2013 1:05:53 PM PDT
Just in time for the dog days of summer, power rates are starting to go up across the nation and Texas is not immune. One way to fight back is switching providers to find a lower rate, but sometimes finding out exactly what you'll pay is not easy.

Looking at a companies kilowatt hour rate is only the first thing you have to do to find a cheaper plan. Are there minimum use fees? Do they factor in the delivery charges? They're questions that many do not even know to ask.

Lillie James got a big surprise with her last power bill.

"I looked at it and I go, 'Hmm, what is that?'" James said.

What James saw was the TDU delivery charge, and it added $55 to her bill, a full third of the cost.

"I just paid the bill the other day, I said, 'I better go on and pay, I don't want my electricity cut off,'" James said.

It turns out everyone pays the TDU delivery charge which is charge to cover the cost of moving electricity from the generation plant to your home. But some providers include it in the base cost for using electricity while others list it separately.

It's just one reason comparing power plans can be confusing.

"Those fees are the same for every company but they put it on the bill in different ways. Some like to show you all the charges as a line item breakout and some companies rill it into one big number and try not to bother with it," said Shane McLaughlin with CenterPoint.

McLaughlin helps run the companies power price comparison web site mytruecost.com. It lists the charges consumers would see on their bill along with the price per kilowatt hour so people know exactly what a months bill would cost.

"Now that the fees are such a big component of the electric bill, you really have to watch that carefully," McLaughlin said.

Some plans change minimum use fees, my true cost factors those in as well.

"Those can be anywhere from $8 to $20, that has become a pretty common number and that happens in a month when you don't use enough electricity," McLaughlin said.

Overall power is costing more across the country, but the increase is not large in Texas, only about 5 percent from a a year ago due to the rising cost of natural gas.

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