As 2011 draws to a close, TXU Energy takes a look back at some of the most significant trends that impacted Texas electricity customers this year, from extreme temperatures and electricity demand to innovative tools that help manage consumption and costs, and the ongoing risks of variable rate electricity pricing.
- Extreme weather shocks the system in Texas.
Record temperatures in 2011 highlighted the challenges our state will face in meeting growing power demand, while also generating consumer and business interest in conservation.
This year the ERCOT grid set records for both summer and winter all-time peak demand â€” 68,379 megawatts (MW) on Aug. 3 and 57,315 MW on Feb. 10. In response, thousands of Texans participated in a conservation program using the BrightenSM iThermostat, an energy savings solution from TXU Energy. This helped ease demand on the grid as ERCOT warned of the threat of rolling outages in August and earned praise from the Texas Public Utility Commission.
- Smart meter deployment plugs customers into their electricity usage.
With more than 4 million* smart meters deployed to customers across the state, retail electric providers can now deliver innovative tools that give consumers unprecedented control over their electricity consumption â€“ and another way to save money on their electricity bills.
TXU Energy currently offers a robust set of smart meter-enabled features to more than a million customers across the state, incorporating their real world electricity use into their online and smartphone driven customer experiences.
One example is the TXU Energy MyEnergy DashboardSM, a free tool that allows customers to track their electricity usage by month, week, day, or even by the hour if they have a smart meter. The forecasting features of the tool give users information on their usage and costs so along the way each month, they can cut back and save money before their bills arrive.
- Variable rate electricity plans take their toll.
TXU Energy offers straightforward pricing, not variable rate electricity plans. The company observed that some retail electricity providers who offer these types of plans increased rates as much as 200 percent or more. These variable rate increases have continued through the year with rates as high as 23 cents per kWh by September.
The company offers more information on the issue via txu.com/novariable. It has also launched the TXU Energy No Vari-a-BULL Sweepstakes**, which runs through Dec. 31 and offers Texas electricity customers the chance to win a plug-in electric vehicle.
- Electric vehicles charge forward.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Texas has more than 140 public electric charging stations available to plug-in electric vehicle drivers, second only to California with its published locations for charging.
To support EV drivers and customers with larger off-peak electricity needs, TXU Energy launched a new time-of-use plan this year called TXU Energy PowerSmart PM 24SM, offering deep nighttime discounts that would cost a driver roughly $1 to charge a Chevrolet Volt, like the company is giving away in its No Vari-a-BULL Sweepstakes. The company is also deploying roughly a dozen charging stations across Dallas and Fort Worth, which will be free for plug-in EV drivers in the first year of operations.
- Innovation provides electricity customers with more choice, control and convenience.
Retail electricity providers have answered the year’s demand challenges and technology developments with innovation. That means a variety of new interactive tools, resources and electricity plans are now available to the 5.5 million Texas consumers in the competitive marketplace. Now more than ever, consumers are in the driver’s seat in terms of their electricity usage, how they access it, how they pay for it and what benefits come with it.
In 2011, TXU Energy launched the Texas electricity market’s first iPhone® app and optimized mobile website for customers who prefer the convenience of doing business by smartphone. As a result, the company has seen an increase in traffic and use of the mobile solutions, including over 90 percent growth in logins and 110 percent growth in payments since the June 2011 launch. Later in the year, the company added key features of the TXU Energy MyEnergy Dashboard to the app, giving customers energy and cost saving tools while they’re on the go.
The company continued to deploy the Brighten iThermostat, which gives customers control over their electricity usage during peak demand hours – as well as all day and night – to help them conserve electricity and save money on their household budget.
TXU Energy launched new choices for electricity customers in 2011, including TXU Energy FlexPowerSM, a new prepaid electricity plan, and three TXU Energy LUV 2 Fly plans, which reward customers with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Points.
In 2011 alone, the company awarded more than $32 million to customers on its cash back loyalty reward plans. These plans provide a percentage of cash back on participating customers’ qualifying electricity purchases for the previous year. The next annual cash back loyalty rewards will be sent in early 2012 to customers who qualify.
Visit TXU Energy’s recent blog entry to learn more and see an infographic detailing these trends.
* Smart meter total based on Texas PUC filings and transmission and distribution utility Web Sites.
**The TXU Energy No Vari-a-BULL Sweepstakes
Customers have a few ways to enter the TXU Energy No Vari-a-BULL Sweepstakes: they can switch to a TXU Energy electricity plan, or they can share their wild ride experiences with variable rate electricity plans via the sweepstakes tab on the company’s Facebook page. Participants can also earn an extra chance to win if five of their Facebook friends also enter by sharing their own variable rate stories. The deadline for entering is Dec. 31, 2011. Full sweepstakes details, including other ways to enter, are available through the sweepstakes tab on facebook.com/txuenergy. Texas residents age 21 and over who live in a deregulated electricity market area can enter. No purchase is necessary to enter or win.