Charges and Fees

Retail Electric Providers structure their offers with an array of charges and fees. Here are some common examples:

Recurring Charges

Base Charge

REPs may levy a flat monthly charge to cover their administrative costs and/or supplement their energy pricing.

Energy Charges

“Energy charges” generally refer to the costs of generating each kWh you use. The wholesale costs are negotiated between your REP and generators across Texas through a combination of long-term contracts, a Day Ahead Market, and a Real Time Market.  The REP then adds margin to cover their profit and expenses, and passes the resulting retail costs to their customers.

TDU Charges

25% to 60% of your electric payment goes to your Transmission and Distribution Utility (TDU), i.e Centerpoint, Oncor, etc. Your TDU maintains the lines from the generators to your house, and they (not your REP) are who you call when the power goes out.  Unlike the REPs, TDUs are regulated monopolies. They charge a combination of monthly flat and usage-based “TDU charges”, which your REP passes through to you on your bill. Some bills and EFLs disclose the TDU charges as a separate line item.  Others “bundle” them with the Energy charges into a single number, which makes it harder for shoppers to determine and compare the true Energy cost.  (Since TDU charges are fixed, the Energy cost is typically the only true competitive differentiator.)

TDU charges change several times a year, but sometimes REPs don’t update older EFLs to reflect the latest TDU rates. If the rates have since risen, that older plan will cost more than what the EFL and results claim. If rates have fallen, an otherwise good plan hindered by old rates may never show up in your top search results.

Where discernable from the EFL, the RateGrinder calculator normalizes all plans to the current TDU charges in effect, so you’re always comparing apple to apples. The RateGrinder ‘TDU_Info’ tab lists all the latest charges and their effective dates.

Other Recurring Charges

The EFL “average price” quotes at 500/1000/2000 kWh generally include only the recurring charges noted above, but other charges may also apply to your regular bill:

  • State and local sales taxes
  • Miscellaneous gross receipts tax reimbursement
  • PUC assessments

The RateGrinder does not currently factor these (relatively minor) charges into the cost calculations.

Non-Recurring Charges

In addition to the regular charges for your monthly service, your REP charges non-recurring fees for certain circumstances.  These fees are described in your plan’s Terms of Service (TOS) and Electricity Facts Label (EFL) documents.  A complete list of the possible fee types is below, but each REP only applies a subset of these. Your REP will also pass through any separate, TDU-levied charges for many of the same situations.

In general, none of these fees apply if you manage your account solely online, subscribe to paperless billing and Autopay, and never miss a payment.  But if you have to make an occasional manual payment or speak to a Customer Service Representative, your REP may charge a nominal fee.  And if you miss payments to the point of getting disconnected and/or referred to a collection agency the fees can get very high.

The RateGrinder calculator lists each plan’s applicable REP fees to the right of the main ‘Results’ table. Since they are non-recurring charges, these fees are not factored into the cost calculations.  They are provided for reference, however, as tie-breakers and to inform consumers of the services each REP offers on a free- vs. paid basis.

Sample REP Fee Description
Late Payment % of each month’s balance due if paid after the due date, per month
Insufficient Funds per payment transaction returned unpaid or not processed (e.g. returned checks; returned EFTs, rejected credit cards)
Early Cancellation if customer cancels contract prior to [14 days before] contract expiration date
Autopay Breakage per bill if autopay required but not established
Manual Payment per payment not made by approved Autopay method
Credit card auto-draft payment per payment
One-time credit card payment via web per payment
One-time bank draft via web per payment
Business Credit Card Payment per commercial, corporate, or business-related credit card transaction
Serial Payments for 6th and successive payment(s) in a single month
Payment Assist per payment processed with the help of a CSR
Agent Assist per live call with a CSR
e-bill Breakage per bill if e-bill required but not established
Doc Processing per request for additional bill copies, duplicate bills, or payment reference letters
Summary Bill per request for a summary bill
Priority Connect to process a priority connection request (+ TDU charges)
Move-In Date Change to process date changes to move-in request
Move-Out Date Change to process date changes to move-out request
Meter Re-Read per meter re-read request processed (+TDU charges)
Disconnect Notice per each disconnection notice provided to the customer
Disconnection per service disconnection request processed (+TDU charges)
Disconnect Recovery for failure to pay past due amount prior to expiration date of REP-issued disconnection notice
Reconnection per service reconnection request processed (+TDU charges)
Reconnect after Tampering if disconnection was the result of tampering
Collection Call per call to remind your payment is past due
Collections Recovery if account transferred to a collection agency
Collections Legal for legal & expenses related to collections
Inactivity per month with zero usage
Unauthorized Enrollment if customer enrolls for a service address for which they’re not authorized

More Information

See these links for more details on what the PUCT requires your REP to include in your EFLs and billing statements.