Homeowners call out utility companies for suspicious energy bills: 'The economy here does not justify what you're paying'

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Texas residents outside of the state’s deregulated energy market are advocating for more transparency from their utility companies and hope their efforts will result in lower electric bills.

What is a ‘deregulated energy market’?

A deregulated energy market means residents can choose their own utility suppliers and energy sources, with lower electric bills often in reach amid increased competition.

However, as detailed by The Texas Tribune, around 5 million Texans live outside of the jurisdiction of the state’s Public Utility Commission, leaving around 15% of the population at the mercy of the rates of the local providers.

According to the outlet, while the rates in the towns of Livingston and Jasper are in line with others around the state, the lack of information about how the high prices are set is a significant matter of concern.

Residents in both cities have filed petitions with the PUC, arguing that they are being overcharged and that prices seemingly set by comparison aren’t fair. The PUC monitors companies to ensure their practices comply with state laws.

“When you look at the rate they are charging us, it’s insane,” Livingston resident Linda Berry, who pays $400 per month for utilities, told the Tribune. “The economy here does not justify what you’re paying.”

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Joshua Grant, another Livingston resident, called out what appears to be arbitrary decision-making by the providers.

“There is no published breakdown of rates, and the process for determining and setting rates is unknown,” the founder of Citizens of Livingston for Fair and Equitable Rates told the news publication. “That’s part of our issue against the city.”

Why does a deregulated energy market matter?

Having the flexibility to choose a utility provider is one of the best ways to save money on your bills and help the environment by reducing pollution that is causing global temperatures to rise.

While most electricity in the United States still depends on dirty fuels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country is making clear progress toward a cleaner grid.

In March, for example, the Solar Energy Industries Association revealed that the U.S. added a record-setting amount of solar in 2023, accounting for more than half of electricity-generating capacity last year.

Americans who are unable to install their own solar panels (that can save more than $1,000 every year on their electric bills) can still benefit from community solar programs — assuming that their regulated locked-in provider already offers the option. People who live in deregulated energy markets have the benefit of ensuring they know where their energy is coming from.

Are there tools to find the best deals in deregulated markets?

SaveOnEnergy has free resources to help consumers discover their unique energy needs, compare prices from different providers, and sign up for the best programs for their homes.

Those in regulated markets (like most of the U.S.) don’t have to despair, though. Making your voice heard on issues that matter to you — whether in the voting booth or through local advocacy and action — can lead to meaningful changes or compromises.

In Texas, for example, residents near Austin who lived outside of PUC jurisdiction successfully petitioned the commission in 2012 and ultimately received discounted rates, as reported by the Tribune.

Other ways to reduce electric bills include switching to LED light bulbs and unplugging appliances to prevent them from pulling energy from the grid when not in use. You could also take advantage of Inflation Reduction Act tax breaks to install energy-efficient technologies like heat pumps and smart home systems.

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