(Video above: Electric provider shopping fair in the Civic Center)
People stood in line in a packed Civic Center for an hour or more Friday to talk to electric providers. Lubbock Power & Light did not count the attendance, but the place was full.
They have a February 15 deadline to choose an electric provider as Lubbock enters the competitive electric market.
For those wishing to attend the remaining shopping fairs, here are a few takeaways. Bring your most recent electric bill. And know the difference between an electric provider and a broker. A broker will help you find a provider but might not be able to guarantee a rate up front.
The next shopping fairs will be Jan. 22 and 23 – both from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. The last one will be Feb. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Among those in the crowd was Angelita Guerrero who was about to hear a big surprise as she stood in line.
One company was going to tell Guerrero, “The rates we have right now – because all of this is kind of crazy – this is going to change.”
We’ll get to her reaction in just a bit.
While standing in line with her, we asked what she was looking for and what questions she planned to ask.
She heard there are 34 different companies. The list has been updated to 39.
“I’m a little curious. Who are they?” she asked.
“I don’t want to have my provider chosen for me, if possible,” Guerrero said. Those who do not choose a provider will be placed with one of three companies.
“I’m a little bit green. I recycle,” Guerrero said. “So, yeah, that would be a plus. Even if it meant paying just a tiny bit more, I would go greener.”
“Solar would be nice,” she said while making small talk as the long que inched forward.
She wasn’t completely sure what to ask while standing in line, but she was definitely on guard for hidden fees.
“They get their money back somehow,” she said with a smile.
There was one Lubbock-based provider in the bunch. That got her interest.
“I do like local. I do believe in supporting our local community,” Guerrero said.
Finally, she made it to the front of the line.
Richard Perez, who was shopping for a provider, said, “I’m still thinking about it. I’m still looking,” Perez said.
“I would say bring your paper bill,” Perez said. That way you can talk to the company reps about how much power you use every month.
“If you pick the wrong one, you’re stuck with them for a year, two, three years,” Perez said. That’s sometimes true if you’re trying to avoid large cancelation fees. But some companies have small fees or none.
Julian Zavala, another shopper, said the whole thing was confusing.
“This morning, I was making a bunch of calls, and a lot of these guys said they didn’t even service my area,” Zavala said. “But when I come here, you know, they’re showing me all the different plans.”
Not all the new plans for Lubbock showed up Friday on powertochoose.org.
Armando Luna, who was also shopping for an electric provider, said, “We’re having to pay a middleman to get our power. But at the same time, this is what everybody voted on.”
Luna looked at the companies online before ever showing up at the Civic Center.
“There’s not enough time to just gather everything in one day,” Luna said. He had narrowed his choices before talking to power company representatives.
“I might go a different route now,” Luna said after finding the companies he wanted to speak with. “But, yeah, I got the answers that I wanted.”
He had not made a final choice.
Thoughts from providers
David Rodriguez, a consultant with Ambit Energy, repeated the advice to bring your most recent bill.
“The starting point would be to have their average for the year,” Rodriguez said. The average shows up on the utility bills from the city.
“If we can see that, we can pretty much select a plan that will fit their needs,” Rodriguez said. “And then you can ask the questions, you know, what are the habits for the family?”
“Do people go to sleep early? If they go to sleep early, they might not benefit from a free night program,” Rodriguez said.
Jake Davis was talking to customers on behalf of Abundance Energy.
“We are the only Lubbock retail energy provider here,” Davis said. “We’re all going through the same thing as everyone else in Lubbock.”
(Slideshow images: Electric provider shopping fair in the Civic Center)
Going with Guerrero through the line
Guerrero asked about contracts, deposits, rates and cancelation fees.
Deposits varied and some companies said there would be a credit check. The rates also varied from provider to provider.
But in one case, she found herself talking to a broker. Brokers will negotiate with providers on your behalf, but they’re not the same thing.
Guerrero asked, “What are your rates?”
His response was, “It depends. I need to see your bill. The more you consume, the better price you get.”
But Guerrero was hoping to know the price up front. The different providers offered her specific numbers. But not the broker.
“Whenever I put your bill on the market, the providers send me back rates based on your consumption,” he told her.
She hears, not once but twice, that the rates are going to change after things settle down.
One company representative told her, “Once all this settles down, there will be other options when it comes time to renew.”
Guerrero would have preferred to get the best price up front.
“I would think they’d want to lure you in with a lower rate,” she said.
“I don’t know about anything except that I think we all just have to do a little bit of homework,” Guerrero said. “Some did say about a 15-month contract, up to a 36-month contract and there are cancellation fees.”
She did not sign up or make a final choice.
Use the video player above see Guerrero talking to various providers.