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Consumers now have more choices in electric service

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – "Texas Electric Choice. The Power is Yours, Use It." Somehow this catchy phrase has motivated me to do zilch about changing the electric company that powers my home. That could shortly change. I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Middays.

I was never really any good at understanding science. By the end of a NOVA program, I forgot what they taught me in the beginning. Which is probably why I'm not one of the 260-thousand households that have elected to change electric companies. You would think that saving money would be a great inducement to change. See right now, just by changing electric companies, I could save approximately 10 to 12%. That's what Texas Electric Choice spokesperson Gary Rasp told me.

Here's an oversimplified explanation. To keep the market competitive, TXU, by law, cannot undercut the prices of the other eight Retail Electric Providers that are in North Texas. In fact, why should they? TXU knows that people are reluctant to switch even with a saving margin of 12%.

Now out of these eight competitors, there is one that actually charges five dollars more for their electric service, and for a good reason. Green Mountain Energy Company is 100% wind-powered. That's right, power comes from the windmills in West Texas. I asked the stupid question to Green Mountain spokesperson Eleanor Scott: "What if there's no wind?" She explained that all the electric companies use the same grid to service our homes or businesses. The energy never stops. But she gave this analogy: it's like having a bathtub of dirty water and deciding that any new water coming into the tub would be clean. The dirty water is the electricity fueled by natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy. By choosing Green Mountain, which now accounts for roughly 20% of those that switched, I would be adding clean energy into the common grid.

This plain illustration not only enlightened me on the process, but now I may choose a new electric company for another reason besides my pocketbook. Just hope I remember what I learned. For KERA Marketplace Middays I'm Maxine Shapiro.

Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 P.M.