Texans like electric competition, says industry study

A majority of Texas voters, 78 percent, favor the current competitive structure of the Texas electricity market, according to a poll commissioned by a power industry trade group.
Surprised? So were the folks who sponsored the survey:

“So much has been written and said about rising fuel prices, the electric market and government regulation, we thought the results would be significantly lower than they turned out to be,” said Sullivan. “Texans increasingly understand the competitive electric market and the power of consumer choice.”

But former Public Utility Commissioner Julie Parsley noted in the Chronicle’s story on the poll that how you package the questions about Texas’ electric markets makes a big difference.

“Julie Parsley said previous surveys she has seen found negative attitudes about deregulation but positive responses to the idea of competition.
Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas director of Public Citizen, agreed.
“Typically when you ask consumers how they think deregulation is going, they say it’s resulted in higher prices and they’re not happy with deregulation. They like the concept of competition,” he said.

After an ugly first half of the year, prices are starting to moderate, notes the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

“Lower natural gas prices are translating into lower electricity prices, although perhaps not as low as might have been expected and nowhere near as low as rates in still-regulated markets across the state.
In July, for example, a group of 10 one-year electricity plans averaged 16.3 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to PowerToChoose.com, the state’s comparison shopping site. A kilowatt-hour is 1,000 watts — roughly the power used by a microwave oven — used for one hour.
But since early July, natural gas prices have been sliding, and electricity prices have followed. As of this week the same 10 plans averaged 14 cents, with a low of 12.7 cents per kilowatt-hour offered by two providers.

And a number of Dallas-area customers will probably like another bit of electric competition news from TXU today: it’s lowering prices as much as 10 percent for more than 300,000 existing customers on several month-to-month residential plans.

“The lower prices reflect the fact that wholesale electricity costs have dropped as the price of natural gas has fallen,” said Dave Hennekes, vice president, residential markets. “We are passing lower costs on to our existing customers.”

The price reductions for the TXU Energy PowerStart, TXU Energy Texas Choice and TXU Energy Freedom Plan go into effect Nov. 17.
But even if they do get lower rates, another study suggests customers will most likely just leave the lights on anyhow:

“Despite government reports documenting that consumers now use more electricity than five years ago, 61 percent of consumers deny using more, with few people noting consumer electronics being charged and used in the home.”