How one woman, whose priority was not price, chose her electric provider

Electric competition in Lubbock

Most of us have not chosen a new electricity provider in Lubbock. We need to by Feb. 15, or else we’re assigned one of three default providers.

Like many, Melissa Key felt a bit overwhelmed by the process. But where cost is the highest priority for many shoppers, Key has other issues higher on her checklist.

Her top priority is if the new providers care about Lubbock? Do they support nonprofits and good causes?

“Working for a nonprofit, I go and ask companies for money all the time. And so, that was what was important to me,” she said.

“Customer service is great, but it’s probably something I won’t be needing,” she said.

As we continue our coverage, you’ll hear from a financial planner who absolutely thinks you should prioritize customer service. But that’s for Friday.

Key got the answers she needed and one company stood out. But there were disappointments along the way.

You will likely pay more

Key is convinced most of us will pay more for electricity and Lubbock Power & Light agrees.

In January, Matt Rose, public affairs and government relations manager for city-owned utility, said the all-in rate was just more than 14 cents per kilowatt hour. Only four plans for Lubbock are, so far, cheaper than that. Most are way higher.

But there’s more to it.

“If we had stayed in the market and we had not gone to competition come May, I would be announcing that starting June 1, the all-in rate would be 16.74 cents,” Rose said.

So, the rate to beat would be 16.74 cents. searched including both fixed and variable rates, regardless of customer service history. We found 52 plans, so far, at or below that price. When we searched only fixed rates and five-star companies, we found only 11 plans.

That does not include a base charge, which some companies include and others do not. Just looking for the best price would be one thing. But for Key, it was a longer journey.

Some said, ‘Nothing’

Key considered a consumer advocate service called Energy Ogre. It evaluates the different plans to “find the one that best aligns with your usage and will save you the most.”

But she felt the cost of the service would wipe out the money she would save. And price wasn’t even her priority.

“I started by going to the various electric company websites and looking for community outreach and for some of those companies, there was nothing on there,” Key said.

“I would look for the media department and call and ask them what they were going to do for our community,” she said. “Some of the companies had zero idea what I was talking about.”

They thought maybe she was trying to buy electricity for a non-profit, she said.

Once they understood what she was looking for, some companies said “nothing,” she said. “Some of them said that’s not what they do.”

One company impressed her with a very simple response.

“If more people sign up, they’ll put more money back into the community. That’s fair,” Key said.

She searched the Internet for providers’ IRS filings.

“One of the bigger ones said that they gave a lot of money to charity. And I looked at their 1099. They had only given out, you know, a four-figure amount,” she said.

“Another company actually had nothing. They had $0.00 on their 1099,” she said.

Final choice

“TXU wrote in a press release that they were going to give $25,000 to the Lubbock market and so I actually called those nonprofits. And they did. So, I was impressed with that,” she said.

But another company did even better.

“What impressed me was Reliant has actually had a community outreach person working in Lubbock who’s from Seminole. She lives here. She’s from here, and they put her to work in 2022,” Key said,

“I’ve visited with her. They have put a lot of money back into Lubbock already,” she said.

Reliant started supporting causes in the community more than a year before the start date of electric competition in Lubbock.

For so many providers, it was “much more difficult” to find donations of both money and employee hours than she expected.

“Reliant was easier to find because apparently part of their corporate culture is giving back,” Key said.

She chose Reliant.

“That was based on … they have a community relations person dedicated to Lubbock,” she said.

The good and the bad

“I was ignorant of the fact that our energy prices will go up. Consumers will pay more, which is disappointing. I thought with more competition, we would pay less, but that’s not the case,” Key said.

She was asked to consider a remote thermostat to get a better price.

“They can set the temperature for you, which I’m not OK with,” Key said.

“It’s very overwhelming. There’s so many choices and so many things that you’re supposed to watch out for,” she said.

But she also thought the city did a great job of getting information out. She was especially pleased with the shopping fairs. She called them her best source of information. The last one is February 10 in the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The community meetings were good too, she said. And she had good things to say about the website, but she also recommended going even further and checking out each provider’s individual website.

“I got a two-year contract,” Key said. “At the end of two years, I can change so it’s not a forever choice.”

More to come

As coverage continues on The Big Switch, we will examine Harold Evensky’s guide to choosing your electric provider. Check back for that on Friday. In the meantime, please drop us comment or share on our Facebook page. It helps us get the word out about this and other stories.

Author: James Clark- James Clark is the associate editor of Lubbock Lights. He worked in radio, television and digital media for a combined total of more than 30 years. He was Director of Digital News Content at KAMC, KLBK and for nearly 10 years.