Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today's Featured Texas Electric Company - Bounce Energy

Bounce Energy is a privately owned company with over 50 years experience in the energy-marketing field. Riding out the storms of a volatile market has made them knowledgeable and seasoned to the market, preparing them for forecasting future trends. Their team of professionals has proven this by continually offering low rates in a competitive field.

100% Green Energy Option

An initiative in following green energy is not enough for Bounce Energy. They are already way ahead of others in offering a completely green program known as the Blue Sky Now Plan. Guaranteed 100% renewable energy sources from solar and wind energy, biomass and hydro, this plan proves that there is a way to use sustainable methods other than petroleum and coal. Project Greenity will keep you informed to present and future efforts and programs made by Bounce Energy and its affiliates.

Personal Energy Audits

Energy audits are always available through Bounce Energy's partner, Standard Renewable Energy (SRE) to teach you how to make your home as energy efficient as possible by saving more on your electric bills, keeping your home as comfortable as possible through temperature control and addressing specific problems that you may have in your energy needs. An in-home inspection that addresses doors, windows, attic space, insulation, appliances, lighting, heating and air conditioning will be made shortly after you sign up for this service.

Hurricane Preparedness

Because Texas falls in an area prone to hurricanes and aftermaths, a Hurricane Preparedness Center is available to answer your concerns by tracking hurricane activity, 2009 hurricane names, future names, details about the scale for measure hurricanes, and the history of hurricanes. Bounce Energy will put you ahead of any dangerous weather conditions by keeping you informed and ways in which to prepare.

Rewarding Good Customers

Rewarding good customers is another way that Bounce Energy stays ahead of the competition. When you pay your bill on time for twelve consecutive months, you are rewarded with a $75.00 bill credit. Twenty-four consecutive months and you receive an entire month of electricity FREE.

Incentive Programs

Incentive programs include a $5 instant bill credit for submitting your payment online, a $50 bill credit for paying your bill through auto pay for 3 months, and other rewards that include free movie tickets, magazine subscriptions and companion airfare.

Bounce Energy strives to be the best and it shows through their customer service and same day turn on guarantee. Outages are handled quickly and efficiently so you never have to go days without electricity. A step above the rest in customer awareness and satisfaction, already in place green solutions and one of the lowest rates that can be found, Bounce Energy is the choice for today's energy needs.

Sign up today and start taking advantage of everything Bounce Energy has to offer - just go to: - it's simple!

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Look at Texas Electric Companies - Green Mountain Energy -

We are starting a series where we discuss our Texas electric company partners. Today we start with Green Mountain Energy.

What is Green Mountain Energy all about and just who are they exactly? Green Mountain Energy is one of the leading providers of cleaner energy and are committed helping people reduce their carbon footprint and their impact on the environment. Although they have humble beginnings, beginning in Vermont in 1997, they are now headquartered in Austin, Texas.

For twelve years, Green Mountain Energy’s goal has been to use the power of the consumer's voice to change the way power is made. In that time, with the help of loyal customers they have delivered over 6 billion kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy to the consumer market. They have also prevented enough CO2 pollution to equal the effect of planting more than 384 million trees and been instrumental in the development of close to 40 new solar power facilities and commercial wind generators across the country.

Green Mountain Energy has three different branches, residential electricity, commercial electricity and carbon offsets. Retail customers have the option to have direct access to their retail electric service provider. In deregulated areas like Texas, customers can not only choose which provider they want, but also where the electricity comes from. For regulated markets, Green Mountain Energy works with utility companies who want to provide a cleaner source of energy to their customers. They also supply the marketing, sales and supply services in order to ensure their success. Green Mountain Energy has partnerships with Portland General Electric and with utility companies in New York and New Jersey.

The commercial division of Green Mountain Energy focuses on deregulating the electricity market in places like Texas. They are one of the major unregulated service providers in the state of Texas. They also help companies, businesses and residences to offset their carbon footprint. This can be done in many different ways; such as finding that a corporation needs to upgrade their solar panels to more efficient ones, or helping an individual find out how to improve things around the home like changing out energy wasting appliances for new high efficiency ones.

Green Mountain Energy also works with many of the world's climate leaders to develop new technologies in the areas of only solar and wind energy as well as hydroelectricity, geothermal energy, natural gas and biomass fuels. Being a truly green company, Green Mountain Energy has also been a leader in reducing their own carbon footprint. This is reflected in the programs offered to their employees, who can purchase certificates from the company for renewable energy to offset the costs of their energy usage.

There are many other ways Green Mountain Energy has helped improve the environment and provided energy from clean, renewable sources. You can find an abundance of information about this company online at You can find out what they are doing and what they have in store for the future. You learn about the consumer programs they have and how you can sign up for them. With the importance of finding cleaner more renewable energy sources, it is refreshing to find a company that has jumped into green energy full force. To sign up online, simply go to: - It's Simple to be Green.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Texas Energy Prices - U.S. Energy Prices

U.S. & Texas energy prices are greatly affected by industry demand. The higher the demand for fuel, the more expensive it becomes. Although the economic climate of 2009 should have reduced U.S. energy prices, growing demand for crude oil in other countries has kept the price much higher than is desirable.

Oil consumption worldwide increased by 28.6% between 1978 and 2004. It is only a small amount less than that, 25.8% of this year's increase alone, that China is responsible for. South Korea's demand for oil rose by a staggering 344% from 1978 to 2004, also widely increasing demand for oil. This growth in demand for oil has driven prices up to approximately $70 a barrel in the last quarter of 2009, from just $12 at the start of 1999.

The price of crude oil directly influences the cost of other fuels. Whether it be for production or generation, crude oil and other fossil fuels are vital to electricity, gasoline, and petroleum. Although oil prices dropped in the first half of 2009, due to a fall in consumption of 1.25 million barrels a day, the price will rise again in 2010 as industry recovers from the recession and demand begins to rise once more.

Respectively, gasoline prices are expected to drop again in the fourth quarter of 2009, before going back on the rise in 2010. Average gasoline prices can be expected to increase by about 40c per gallon from 2009 to 2010. However, the average retail price of electricity is set to decline by 2% due to the cheaper price of fossil fuels required for generation.

While the economy remains unstable, U.S. energy prices will be less certain. In the supply and demand chain, if fuel prices suddenly rise too high, demand will decrease as smaller businesses and companies can no longer afford production. However, while prices are on the decline it will help industry pick up again as their profits increase. The delicate balance should be maintained by both crude oil sales and industry relying on each other. Undoubtedly, as the economy picks up speed once more, crude oil prices will increase. It is only a matter of time before other fuel prices follow.

The first half of 2009 saw a substantial fall in electricity consumption, in the U.S. Electricity sales declined as businesses and residential properties cut back to save money. An uncertain economic climate was responsible for a 4.4% decrease in comparison with 2008. However, the second half of 2009 was more positive. The decline leveled out at a less significant 2.3% decrease in electricity consumption. U.S. energy prices should remain low in the fourth quarter of 2009 before steadily rising again next year as industry improves and the economy settles. Electricity prices are not exempt from this, with estimated declines of 2% in 2010.

The economy is mentioned constantly in relation to U.S. energy prices. As the international recession is far from over, it is expected to take at least a year for demand for fuel to rise back to the peaks of previous years. Since early 2008, prices have steadily declined in response to the sudden uncertainty in finance and industry that had led to worldwide economic recession.

Crude oil prices seem to try to preempt the economy at every step of the way. When figures were released to suggest that the U.S. economy was recovering, prices jumped up, boosting the retail price of gasoline and petroleum. However, these prices dropped again almost immediately as it was made clear that a select amount of data was not the go ahead for a stable economy. For instance, although unemployment benefit claims have declined, the levels of unemployment are still not at a healthy level. While the economy recovers, U.S. energy prices will remain volatile.
With the lowered demand for energy, fuel stockpiles are much higher than expected. This is lowering the price, as more is available. Natural gas, for example, has stockpiles close to reaching a 5-year high. It will be a long time before demand outstrips supply once more and prices will significantly rise. However, while prices remain low, industry should be encouraged and the economy will be on its way to recovery.

Overall, U.S. energy prices have seen a decline in response to the lack of demand from industry and exports. While the worldwide economy stays uncertain, prices will only be able to rise so much before being cut back again. Electricity and gasoline prices have decreased in the fourth quarter of 2009 and will stay low in early 2010 before seeing gradual rise before the end of the year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stop Air Leaks For An Energy Efficient Home

Summary: Air gets into and out of our homes from a wide range of places. Many of these can be fixed with some simple do it yourself handiwork. Undertake any of these and you'll start to realize instant Texas energy savings.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, American homes lose energy from the following places (in decreasing order of importance): floors, ceilings and walls (31%), doors and windows (21%), heating/air condition ducts (15%), fireplaces (14%), plumbing penetrations (13%) and all others (6%). Recognize that these numbers may vary based on home type, age, geographical region and other factors. For some of these problem areas, better insulation or more energy efficient windows or doors may yield significant savings. But, these can be costly. Instead, why not take a few simple steps to eliminate those pesky air leaks?

One of the easiest things one can do is recaulk windows and doors. In addition to eliminating air leaks, this can also eliminate water leaks. To do this, first remove existing caulk (don't just recaulk over existing caulk). You may need to use a putty knife, a window scraper, other blunt scrapper tool or even a screwdriver to loosen and remove the caulk. Be careful not to gouge the framing. Then clean the entire window or doorframe with rubbing alcohol or other cleaning compound to ensure good adhesion.

Reapply caulk (pushing the bead to ensure it gets into gaps). Be sure NOT to caulk window weep holes (small holes at the bottom of the window that allow for any condensation to drain). It's best to apply the caulk when outdoor temperatures are between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In most locales, this is when most building materials are at the midpoint of their contraction and expansion range.

Choose the type of caulk and color that is best suited to your home and any associated remodeling activity. But in most cases, a paintable, light-colored caulk is what you'll want.
What works for windows and doors, also applies to skylights and any other places where gaps may occur. This can include places where air conditioning, phone or electric lines enter your home. You can now find special cover plates that be placed over the once massive caulked or sealed areas. You'll still need to seal these, but it looks a lot more attractive.

In your attic, crawl space and/or basement, you should plan to seal all air conditioning and heating ducts. Instead of caulk, however, duct tape can be used to seal seams of exposed ducts.
An even better approach (one that can reach all ducts) involves injecting an aerosol sealer into the ductwork. During the course of the process, the sealant collects at any leak sites, sealing them.

Finally, address weather stripping along the bottom of doors and windows. This can become brittle and/or damaged over time. Sometimes you can simply slide in a replacement piece. At other times you may have to tip out the window or remove the door from its hinges and then physically remove and replace the entire weather stripping unit.

Another easy-to-do sealant project involves eliminating leaks around electric outlets or switches on outside walls. Turn off electricity and carefully remove switch plate or plug covers. Feel for air leaks (especially in colder months). Then use foam inserts to cover much of the opening. You may also want to stuff insulation into gaps along the outside edges of the electric box or spray in some foam sealant. Wait a few moments and feel again for air leaks.

You can also undertake some temporary fixes, but nothing beats fixing leaks outright. Once you do, you'll start saving real money, really quickly and you'll see a lower Texas energy bill.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Texas Electric Deregulation - What You Need To Know

We conclude our 5 part series on energy deregulation with the state that is leading the way.
The state of Texas has offered consumers the power to choose their electricity provider since 2002. This means that if you're a Texas resident and you're not happy with the service your power company has been offering, you can get different service. You can choose from companies that offer better quality customer service, renewable energy sources, and many other features that your current provider may not have. Let's take a look at the details.

Before Texas electric deregulation was put into effect, only one utility would manage power distribution, transmission and sales in an area. That meant you had no other options. Today, the same company you used to use maintains the distribution and transmission of the electricity, but other companies handle sales and billing. That means that you can work with the business that offers what you want. The reliability and safety of energy distribution are overseen by the Public Utility Commission, to prevent problems in the long run.

About seventy-five percent of the state actually has the ability to choose the Texas power company that they want, instead of having no control over their bill, where their power comes from, or what kind of service they recieve. The rest of the state is unfortunately not subject to competition for a number of reasons. Electricity cooperatives and large cities, including San Antonio and Austin, are not open for competition. You can get in touch with your co-op or city utility to find out more.

Texas electric deregulation is about power choice, and we hope that it's going to lead to some real innovation. After all, Texas is now one of the leading producers of wind power in the United States, and plenty of additional wind farms are in development. That means that you could say goodbye to using power that comes from coal plants that pollute the air and water, or natural gas plants that use a nonrenewable resource. This wouldn't have been possible without deregulation.
Texans are encouraged to shop for good prices and good service, and it's easier than it's ever been. After all, there are plenty of informative websites out there that give you the information you need to decide which energy supplier is right for you. The most advanced site ( lets you compare power prices in real time without needing to leave the website, and can even place orders. These orders go right to the electric company you decide will be the best choice for your situation.

Once you've made all the comparisons, picked a new Texas electricity provider and had your order accepted by the company, you should expect to receive a terms of service agreement from them, as well as some information listing your rights as one of their customers. There's no need to get in touch with your current provider - that's all going to be handled by the new one. You'll get a notice of your change request in the mail, and the change of service will happen the next time you have your meter read. You'll get bills from the old company until you've paid in full, and once that final bill is paid, you'll start getting ones from the new provider.

That's all it takes to exercise your power to choose in Texas. The reliability of your power will be the same, outages will occur with the same frequency that they always have (hopefully not often) and your local wires company still maintains your delivery. However, you now have a choice in which company sells you your power, the rate you buy it at, and how it's produced. The customer is getting more control over their utilities in the state of Texas. That's a great thing for nearly everyone.

Take the time to find out if you have the option to change your power supplier - you could really benefit. It's not hard to do, and your service can only get better. Companies now have an incentive to offer better pricing, cleaner energy, and better quality service. After all, you could always try your luck with someone else.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Electric Choice In Pennsylvania

Deregulation of the electricity market is now a reality in Pennsylvania and that is a good thing for consumers. Deregulation means the chance for competition and a free market and competition means lower prices and better service for customers. Before the deregulation act, officially called the “Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act”, passed, Pennsylvania customers only had one company to choose from for their electricity needs. Since you cannot pick up and move your home, the area you lived in dictated what power company you purchased electricity from.

But that was the old system and it ended with deregulation. The problem with the old system was that with no competition, one company was in charge of generating, transmitting and distributing the electricity. Since this constituted a monopoly. Since monopolies are against the law, the government was forced to regulate the industry to make sure that customers were charged a fair price for the service. But regulated or not, you still had only one company that had the sole right to provide electricity.

With no competition, power companies could decide that services should and should not be provided and what facilities were necessary. Customers had no influence on the market unlike most things in our capitalist system where customers can vote with their checkbooks and let companies know how they feel about their policies. Now that there is competition in the system, customers can do just that. The local power utility is still responsible for the delivery of electricity but consumers can choose their electricity generation supplier.

The deregulated market will be every bit as reliable as the old monopoly but with the added advantage of customer choice. This truly makes it a superior system in comparison with the old regulation model. Customers will find that their same old local company will be responsible for the local infrastructure maintenance and any problems, like downed power lines or power outages. They will also handle any billing problems or complaints. Customers will also have reliable power delivery because if for some reason the company they select cannot provide the power, the local company will be obligated to step in and handle the need as the “provider of last resort.” That way a customer cannot be cut off from the grid, no matter who their power company is.

Here are a few definitions that will help you as a consumer better understand the information you encounter about the deregulation issue:

Electric Distribution Company: This is the company that has the wires connected to you house. More than likely they will be the same company you had before the changeover. This company handles all delivery of electricity, maintenance of the lines, meter reading, as well as service connection and disconnection as well as upgrades.

Electric Generation Supplier Company: This is the company that creates and transmits the electricity to the grid so your local electric distribution company can deliver it to your home or business. This company is also known as the alternate supplier. There are also electricity brokers who fill this role. Customer’s fees are no longer regulated so the competition in the marketplace will set the prices.

Unbundling of Electric Services: The deregulation legislation forced electrical companies to unbundle their customer fees in to four different parts: distribution, transmission, generation and transition. This allows customers to choose different providers for each of these services except the distribution which has to be handles by the local company.

Billing Cycle: This is the time spanning from one meter reading to the next. Usually this span is one month although it may technically be calculated by a certain number of days.

Tariff Rates: The rates changed for electricity by the Electric Distribution Company.

One Bill Option: The Electric Distribution Company will provide the customer with a single bill that will also include the charges from the Electrical Generation Company. The bill will note the separate charges in separate sections and will make note of the other company’s name. Having only one bill is more convenient for customer’s to pay and also makes it easier for them to keep track of their total electricity expenses.

Two Bill Option: If customers choose an alternative generation supplier and choose the two bill option, then they will receive separate bills from both the generation company and the distribution company.

Electrical Commodity Price: Electricity is now a commodity because there is a market and competition to provide it. It is controlled by the forces of the market at the retail level. Price changes will be much more frequent as generation suppliers and brokers will be keeping a close eye on the cost of creating electricity and attempting to offer the best price at that time to attract more business.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Deregulation In Georgia

In order to understand the process of deregulation, the first thing you will have to know is exactly what this means. Deregulation is a way of making gas companies offer the consumer a more viable price for the service they provide. Including ways of promoting their business, such as specials for new customers, this saves the customer money by helping to lower the monthly rates they pay for natural gas.

Deregulation Bill Passed

Senate Bill 215 was signed in 1997 by Zell Miller, Governor of Georgia. The deregulation did not actually start until 1998. Atlanta Gas & Light was the seller and the distributor of natural gas before deregulation. This state was the first one in the U.S. to endeavor to deregulate natural gas.

After the Natural Gas Competition and Regulation Act (ACT) was passed, selling natural gas was offered to companies approved to do so. AGL still distributes the gas and maintains the pipeline for the service, but other marketers can sell the natural gas. One for example, is Stream Energy.

Who Regulates the Companies?

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) is still responsible for regulating the gas to make sure the safest standards are in place. Georgia promoted the deregulation taking the initiative to get customers to choose the provider they wanted. However, those who did not choose were given a provider by the state.

Competitive Prices

One of the benefits of deregulation was the competition it provided. The previous way only allowed customers one choice, which was often expensive. By providing a choice, consumers are provided with gas that is considered excess. In short, the natural gas is available because it is not under contract to another company.

By comparing plans among the service providers, you may choose a rate for the natural gas you buy and opt to lock in the price. This is a fixed rate. The advantages to choosing this type of plan is you will know what you are paying every month. Even if gas prices rise, you have the rate locked in for the period of the contract. Some of these plans can be as long as 3 years.

If you decide to go with the variable rate, there are no contracts. This plan is one that offers a competitive price and is quite easily changed if you decide to switch to the fixed rate or cancel and go with another provider. The competition makes it possible to change energy providers without having to turn the utility off and wait to have it reconnected. Gas Georgia offers the option of comparing rates from different providers and their fixed rates.

Structure of the Natural Gas Market

Quite similar to other services provided, the natural gas market is based on supply and demand. The demand regulates the production of the natural gas and often results in higher prices. The supply of natural gas is not like other commodities where production can just be increased. With natural gas the drilling and permits can take time.

Also, the wells already in production are not guaranteed to be active. They may begin to produce less, which means drilling elsewhere for the natural gas that is being used by consumers. Adjusting the supplies to meet the demand is a complicated process. The recent state of the economy has resulted in a decrease in the demand.

Choosing a Natural Gas Provider in Georgia

This is an easy process that can be done over the Internet or the telephone. Once you have found the service provider you want all you have to do is put in your order. The enrollment service will result in a package being mailed to you specifying the terms as well as the contract if you opt for a fixed rate plan.

All marketers of natural gas are certified by the Public Service Commission to sell gas in the state of Georgia. The Commission has a scorecard they issue each month that answers questions received about the different marketers for natural gas. The card also lists any complaints they have received by the category. This includes deceptive marketing, service and billing. This allows the consumer to see which companies are doing the best job. Although, the complaints are not always the fault of the marketer and whether the complaints are valid cannot be determined until they investigate.

Deregulation has been a welcome change for the state of Georgia. The ability to choose the natural gas provider and type of plan is seen by many consumers as a welcome change from being tied to one company. The competition provides better rates, among other benefits for many natural gas consumers.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Deregulation in New York

In the mid-1990s deregulation in New York began when the state government began to implement policies to restructure the electricity industry. It was believed that this deregulation could help businesses and consumers save money on electricity in the State of New York in light of a flagging economy and increasing power costs at the hands of the monopolies granted to electrical utilities when power regulations were first enacted.

Even though the deregulation process has been ongoing in the natural gas industry for years as a result of oil embargos in the 1970s, little has been done with deregulation in New York concerning electric utility operations and rates until much later, since they are much more complex in terms of operations, rate policies and distribution among various power consortiums. As a result of this, experts believe that electric utility restructuring will have a far greater impact on electricity costs charged to consumers and the manner in which operations are handled in the coming years. To understand deregulation in New York, there are a few concepts that we need to understand better.

A utility provides a tangible commodity or service that is considered to be something vital to the well being of the general public in the state. These commodities are things like electrical power, water, or natural gas. The utility has the responsibility for producing the commodity, transporting it (in the case of electricity through the power lines they have erected and must maintain), and ultimately, distributing it on the retail level to the individual consumer through a meter and connections to the power grid owned by the utility.

It was ultimately determined by both state and federal lawmakers that it is in the public's interest to regulate how electricity is provided. To keep utilities from practicing price gouging like often happened in the early years the utilities were being built and to encourage widespread access by individual consumers, the government originally allowed individual utilities certain monopolistic rights to sell energy unchallenged within a specific territorial area, known in the industry as the "service area" or "franchise territory." In the times when the utility was first being set up, this monopoly allowed the utility to regulate prices any way they saw fit as well as enacting service terms and conditions that the consumer had no choice but to abide by if they wanted power.

Despite the safeguards set up at the state level that were supposed to be in place in the form of the state Public Service Commission, up until recently the consumer has had very little to say about the prices and rates charged by the utilities. The PSC was perceived as acting rarely in the interest of the individual consumer, and the consumer had very little recourse open since they had no other choice except to go with the one utility that was operating in their area.

Deregulation in New York was designed to allow the consumer to choose a power company which has a more competitive rate charged for Kilowatt hours (KWh). This offers a potential savings to the individual energy consumer because outside concerns can charge rates less than those set by the original territorial power provider. This also helps theoretically because a consumer is free to choose an electricity provider which produces electricity utilizing a more environmentally friendly renewable generation source like solar or wind compared to the burning of coal which accounts for over a third of all electrical power generated. New York is one of only 19 states which is implementing restructuring to a competitive market.

Despite deregulation in New York, the one wild card in the power equation is the cost the consumer is charged for the delivery of power. This delivery price is still determined by the local utility since they are mandated to maintain and effect repairs on the power lines in their service area should storm damage and outages occur. With this point in mind, the power consumer should be aware that it is possible to see delivery charges that actually exceed the cost of power used, thus affecting the actual savings that choosing a cheaper provider might afford, despite the fact that the laws enacted prohibit the local utility from adopting stranded costs or other surcharges.

This is one aspect that is not being made clear when consumers are being offered the choice of an electrical power provider. To be properly informed, consumers should carefully research delivery charges to get a better idea of what savings could be actually realized, making the choice of a power provider more realistic when it comes to optimizing deregulation in New York.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

American Electricity Deregulation

Today we will open a new series of post about electricity deregulation in America. We will discuss how deregulation has opened markets across the U.S. and their importance to American energy.
So please check back over the next serveral days as we discuss more on electricity deregulation in America.

In the1990s the Federal government embarked on a policy of deregulating the electricity industry in America. It was believed that this America electricity deregulation would help American businesses and consumers save money on electricity. Even though the deregulation process has been going on in the natural gas industry for well over a decade, little has been done with American electric utility operations and rates since they are much more complex to figure. As a result of this, it is believed that electric utility restructuring will have a far greater impact on facility energy costs for consumers and the way operations are handled in coming years. Before we discuss this deregulation, there are a few concepts that we better need to understand.

In the simplest terms, a utility is an entity which is created to provide a tangible commodity or service that is considered to be something vital to the well being of the general public. These commodities include electrical power, water, or natural gas. In addition, the utility has the responsibility for producing the commodity, transporting it (in the case of electricity through power lines they have erected), and ultimately distributing it on the retail level to the individual consumer through a meter and connections to the power grid.

Since utility service is such a vital need, it has been determined by both state and federal lawmakers that it is in the public's interest to regulate how it is provided. To keep utilities from causing the consumer to suffer price gouging and to encourage widespread access by individual consumers, the government originally gave individual utilities certain monopolistic rights to sell energy within a specific territorial area, known in the industry as the "service area" or "franchise territory." In the days when the utility was first conceived of, it was believed to be less expensive to provide any given mass market in a defined geographic territory with utility services from a single supplier because of the high cost of distribution. This monopoly was accompanied by the right of the utility to regulate price as well as service terms and conditions that the consumer had to abide by.

Because of their monopoly status in a given location, utilities are regulated at both state and federal levels. Federal jurisdiction regulates wholesale interstate transactions while state regulation deals more with consumer-level issues like rates and the quality of service. Despite the safeguards that were supposed to be in place in the form of a Public Service Commission, up until recently the consumer has had very little to say in the amount of rates charged by the utilities and had very little recourse open to them since they had no other choice except to go with the one utility that was operating in their area.

Recent America electricity deregulation legislation was designed to allow the consumer to choose a power company which has a more competitive rate charged for Kilowatt hours (KWh), offering a potential savings to the individual energy consumer. This also helps theoretically because a consumer is free to choose a utility which produces electricity using a more environmentally friendly renewable generation source for electricity like solar or wind generation as compared to the burning of coal which currently accounts for over a third of all power generated in America. Despite this deregulation, only 19 states have implemented or are implementing restructuring to a competitive market. The rest have either halted studies or have taken no steps to transition over despite advantages that the American power consumer could see.

One exciting development that could help to move the remaining states along the path to America electricity deregulation was the legislation that President Obama signed into being in June of 2009. This legislation included incentives for utilities that begin switching to cleaner, more renewable sources of generation like the use of solar or wind generators.

In addition, individuals like homeowners or businesses that install smaller generation systems will be offered monetary incentives to help pay for the costs of the initial system. This legislation also compels electrical utilities to purchase any excess wattage that the individual generates which is above and beyond what is needed to power the business or home. A net meter, a device that keeps accurate track of wattage bought from or sold to a utility, can provide not only a significant possible energy savings to the owner of the generation system (experts estimate a savings of between one to two billion dollars annually between the years 2012 and 2042), but also serves to provide additional energy that is not dependant on dirty, dwindling fuels like burning coal that not only is less efficient to use, but is also more costly in terms of the devices needed to be factored in to make them cleaner and less injurious to the environment.

The more clean generation systems that come online, the closer we will be to catching up with the countries that already are trying to switch over to renewable fuel technologies. As one expert put it, so long as the sun shines, there will always be a free source of fuel, either via sun or wind generation.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

How to Get a Tax Credit While Improving Your Home's Energy Efficiency

Summary: The IRS is offering incentives to make energy efficient improvements to your home. With Texas heat - these are some great ideas on how you can lower your Texas electric bill. But these come with strings and caveats. Be sure that what you are planning will qualify before you commit to the expenditure.

Uncle Sam is on your side when it comes to offering some tax credits for improving your home's energy efficiency. Unfortunately, he's only offering some credits and these come with a handful of strings. Still, a tax credit is better than no tax credit.

First, you need to know that energy tax credits can total 30% of expenditures (existing homes only for - windows and doors, metal roofs, insulation, asphalt roofs, ventilating, heating, and air conditioning systems [known as HVACs], non-solar water heaters as well as biomass Stoves) up to $1500 over a 2-year period (tax years 2009 and 2010). The credit is NOT for each year. Further, it is NOT for each adult owner of the home, unless they file separate income tax returns. A husband and wife filing a joint return, for example, could receive up to a single $1500 credit. Two adults (married or living together in the same home) could receive two such credits if they filed separate returns.

There are also longer-term and unlimited tax credits (30% of the cost, with no upper limit through 2016 for existing homes & new construction) for geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, small wind energy systems, solar panels, and fuel cells. However, the tax credit for fuel cells is limited to $500 per .5 kW of power capacity.

Note, too, that installation costs are only allowed for windows, doors, roofs and insulation.

And, to keep the confusion to a dull roar, you can only claim the tax credit for up to what you owe in taxes. Thus, if after other deductions you owe no taxes (even if you had tax payments withheld), you cannot claim the credit. And, if you don't owe enough taxes, you cannot carry over the credit (unless you install the items under "longer term" described above.

The good news is that you can claim both the $1500 credit and the unlimited credit as long as you satisfy the requirements for each.

Next, you will need to ensure that what you are doing qualifies for the credit. It's best to check with the company (or the manufacturer's web site) to ensure that they can provide a "Manufacturer's Certification Statement." The MCS is a signed statement that comes from the manufacturer, which certifies that the product is qualified for this tax credit. As with anything involving the IRS, be sure to save all receipts and the MCS, just in case the IRS requests them.

When you file your taxes, be sure to include a Form 5695. On the latest draft version of the form, the energy tax credit appears on line 52.

If you are thinking about this credit as a way of helping to offset the costs of viable energy-efficient home improvements, then you should visit the Energy Star web site to get more information. Check back periodically as the web site managers seem to be doing a good job of keeping information current and addressing questions. The web site's address is

You might also want to read the IRS rules carefully and check with your tax advisor/accountant, if you have one.