**Updated at 2 p.m. on 2/24/2021
In this blog, Energy Ogre CEO Jesson Bradshaw answers popular questions that many members, both current and prospective, have asked us via social media, email, and phone.
Jesson Gives His Two Cents
During a lengthy, detailed Facebook Live broadcast, Jesson answered many common questions Energy Ogre received over this past week. These questions all relate to the historic week we’ve had. Jesson discussed the short and long-term effects on the industry, if prices will increase in the future, who or what is to blame, and many other relevant topics.
If you’re interested in learning more about the electric grid failure and the impact it will have on the industry, then check out our blog from Thursday!
If you’re hoping to have a specific question answered via video, then you’re in the right place!
Below, we have listed the 12 most common questions we’ve been asked this week. In each video, Jesson will answer each question. Some videos may not answer your question in full, so I’ll do my best to provide some resources to other valuable content we’ve put out in the past.
1. Who or What is to Blame for the Electric Grid Failure in Texas?
Energy Ogre CEO Jesson Bradshaw explains that no one thing or entity, in particular, is to blame for the electric grid failure that left millions of Texans without electricity for hours and/or days.
There were several problems, and he asks people consider them all—especially how rare this weather storm was. According to Jesson, the storm broke some records dating back to the 1800s.
2. Will Recent Extreme Weather Affect Predictive Weather Modeling for Energy Ogre?
It seems Texas, and specifically, Houston has experienced multiple “once in a lifetime” storms, whether hurricanes or snowstorms like the one we saw this week. How will this affect the way Energy Ogre predicts weather modeling moving forward? Jesson explains we are currently factoring in these recent extreme weather occurrences while also considering historical weather patterns.
3. Can I Track My Electricity Usage in Real-Time?
Any Texan, and especially Energy Ogre Members, can track their usage using Smart Meter Texas. Visit their site and create an account to see what you’re using. Please keep in mind, if you’ve been an Energy Ogre member for a while, you have most likely already created an account and shared with us your login info.
The meter tracks how much electricity you used every 15 minutes, leading to a 96 time/value sequence of data every day of the year. This, along with data about the weather and your home and a whole lot of math, is how we forecast your electricity needs.
Here’s more info about Smart Meter Texas!
4. Do Electricity Companies (REPs) Accept Payment Plans?
Yes, every retail electricity provider is required to allow customers to pay via payment plans. However, please keep in mind that failing to pay or not paying on time can place you in a switch hold situation. This makes you unable to switch providers until you pay your balance accordingly.
This has the potential to leave someone without power, and unable to get power from a new provider if money is still owed to the former provider! Of course, Energy Ogre members can depend on us to figure this stuff out for them, and do most of the work necessary to undo the switch hold.
5. What is a “Provider of Last Resort” (POLR), and What Does it Mean if I’m Enrolled with Them?
A “Provider of Last Resort” (POLR) is a retail electricity provider that accepts new customers under certain market conditions, particularly when a REP goes out of business. Their electricity plans are typically more expensive than other fixed-rate plans available in the market, but consumers need power, so the POLR provides it.
Under the current circumstances, if new Energy Ogre members were placed with POLR before joining, we will begin working on enrolling you with a new retail electricity provider on Monday, Feb. 22. Doing so will put you in a cheaper plan, maximizing the savings we promised you at sign-up!
6. Will Deregulation Come to an End Because of this Week’s Events?
Overall, deregulation has been a “humongous gain” for Texas consumers who live in deregulated areas, according to Jesson. When the electricity market deregulated—allowing private companies to create a market for competitive electricity pricing—Texans living in deregulated areas could shop for cheaper plans, ultimately saving them money each month.
However, some critics have recently voiced that deregulation directly led us to the problems we experienced this week. As Jesson points out, areas such as Austin and San Antonio are still regulated, and each city and the surrounding areas still had wide-scale power outages as well.
Energy Ogre does not expect deregulation to end anytime soon (if ever) despite this week’s events, primarily because of the value it brings to Texans.
For more about deregulation, please check out our blog posts:
Seeing Electricity Clearly: Texas Electricity 101
What is Deregulation, and What Texas Cities are Deregulated?
7. Is Renewable Energy Responsible, Specifically Wind Turbines, for the Grid Failure this Week?
According to Jesson, renewable energy (wind turbines included) is not to blame this week’s grid failure. He explains there is a hierarchy of power generators, and they operate in order of cost-efficiency.
In this case, some of the wind capacity did not come onto the grid when needed, but other plants that use natural gas and coal failed to make up the difference for the lack of wind energy. Under normal weather circumstances, we would have not experienced this failure.
Here’s a blog article we wrote recently about renewable energy if you’d like to learn more about it: What Is Renewable Energy and What Does Its Future Look Like?
8. My Contract is Ending Soon. Should I be Concerned About my Renewal or my Next Plan?
No need to fear, the Ogre is here!
Our team of industry experts has been working tirelessly, even without power and water, to work for our members. During the week of February 15-19, REPs were slow to resume offering new plans. However, we were able to enroll a few members on Friday, and as we enter this new week, we will continue to enroll all new members and current members up for their next contract.
Jesson is confident the pricing volatility was a short-term phenomenon, and prices will remain normal moving forward.
9. I Just Signed up with Energy Ogre. Anything I Should Know or be Aware of?
We ask all new members have patience and trust that we will enroll you with a new provider as quickly as possible.
We understand last week was incredibly difficult, and electricity pricing was out of control. However, even as of Friday, Feb. 19, prices returned to about $30 per kWh, which is near its average price point for the year.
Before you know it, you’ll be enrolled in the lowest, fixed-rate plan that will save you the most money possible.
10. How will my Bill be Affected by the Winter Storm?
Depending on the type of electricity contract you’re in, the answer will vary. Here’s why!
Fixed-Rate Contract: If you’re in a fixed-rate contract (as all Energy Ogre members are), then your price per kWh will not change during this billing cycle. Your bill may be a bit higher if you used more electricity, but it will not skyrocket. It should be proportional to the last few month’s bills if you’ve remained in the same contract.
Variable-Rate Contract: If you’re in a variable-rate contract, your electricity price for February was set at the end of January. This is because your per kWh rate is determined by what it costs for your REP to serve you. Keep in mind, your March rate may be much higher, so check with your REP and find out their best renewal offer.
Index-Rate Contract: If you’re in an indexed price plan, where a portion of your electricity bill is based on the market rates, your bill will likely be very high, as the high cost to acquire that electricity is passed to you. I suggest you call your provider and ask to be switched to a fixed-rate plan immediately.
Wholesale Electricity Contract: If you’re with a company like Griddy, which sells electricity to their customers at wholesale prices, you will pay a very high price for the electricity you consumed. A majority of their members who didn’t leave before the freeze have been charged thousands of dollars for their electricity usage in less than 5 days. Buying electricity at wholesale prices can SOMETIMES be cheaper than the common fixed-rate plan. But that “lower” price is accompanied by a certain exposure to severe price spikes that we’ve seen in Summer 2019 and Winter 2021. Basically, wholesale electricity pricing is “good” until it isn’t. Just like owning a car with no insurance, everything is good until you cause a wreck. There’s an occasional, small upside with unlimited, inevitable risk.
Hopefully, that explains what you should expect your next bill to look like. If you’re wondering what the long-term effects of this incident will be, we’ll do our best to forecast that for you too.
11. How will Electricity Prices be Affected in the Short and Long Terms?
In the short term, Jesson believes the biggest concern is multiple REPs going out of business. Fewer electricity providers could spell less competition, thus driving up prices for consumers.
Additionally, for non-EO members, an electricity provider going under can place customers with a POLR who offers higher than normal rates for an extended period of time. New Energy Ogre members who joined after being put with the POLR can rest assured that we’ll switch them to a safe fixed-rate with the lowest price.
12. Will REPs Increase Energy Charges to Compensate for any Money Lost Last Week?
With the amount of competition that exists, even if some REPs go out of business, Jesson is confident enough providers still exist to maintain competitive pricing.
He does not anticipate long-term price inflation where providers attempt to “squeeze the customer base to try to extract their margins back.”
Will My Electricity Bill Spike in the Future?
13. Can Texas’ Electric Grid Handle the Rapid Population Growth?
According to Jesson, the entire electric grid is built to withstand peak summer usage. Year after year, summer usage continues grow steadily, and it broke historic highs in 2015, 2018, and 2019.
So with the addition of more wind and solar energy, Jesson is confident we will generate enough power necessary to meet demand.
14. How will REPs Account for Billing Inaccuracies in February?
Let’s start with this: electricity companies (REPS) do not read residential electricity meters. That responsibility is entrusted to five Transmission/ Distribution Service Provider (TDSP) located throughout the state.
Under normal circumstances, when TDSPs read a meter with no usage, they typically assume it’s a mistake. The TDSP then attempts to estimate the usage based on how much was used prior. In the aftermath of the recent winter storm, some consumers accessed their usage during the storm—and they noticed that their REP was reporting usage despite the home’s lack of power.
To remedy the situation, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) has done three things:
-They have addressed this discrepancy as an issue
-They have directed all TDSPs to reassess how much electricity their customers used
-They have asked REPS to refrain from sending bills until the discrepancies are fixed
15. Should I Remove Myself from Auto-Pay?
A very small subset of Texans were subject to the recent price spikes for electricity. Therefore, the severe majority of consumers have very little to worry when their new bills comes in.
With that said, Jesson encourages everyone to remain enrolled in their auto-pay for a few reasons.
1. You’ll be notified 14-17 before the billed amount is withdrawn from your account
2.) You were most likely not susceptible to those price spikes, therefore the billed amount for February should be proportional to the last few bills you received
3. You may forget to pay the bill altogether since you’re used to auto-pay—this could result in late fees and possibly disconnection
Still Have Questions?
If you still have any questions, you may find this blog post helpful!
If you still have questions for us, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thanks for being with us today, and stay warm out there!