Texans are the beneficiaries of an intentional “Power to Choose” program. Many other states have competing electrical providers, but the objective in Texas is to allow people to make power choices for ethical and economic reasons. It reflects the growing American conscience about how they consume electricity. It also reflects the fluctuating prices for different resources. Oil, coal, and natural gas rise and fall in price. People who make specific choices hope to save money if they think one natural resource will run out of control.
The Price of Natural Resources
Many power plants burn coal, oil, and natural gas. It is possible to build these power plants most anywhere, because the resources can be piped or barged without interruption. Modern design even eliminates the need for ample water, because efficient cooling systems allow a power plant to reuse the steam that pushes its turbines. The twentieth century saw many diesel power plants built, because oil was cheap at that time. Some people are concerned that oil will run out or that prices will skyrocket overnight. This is unlikely, because Texas has major oil fields in its own back yard. The future will still likely see a gradual increase in the cost of petroleum products.
Coal Will Likely Stay Cheap
Electricity generated with coal has a bad reputation because it pumps out so much carbon dioxide. The truth is that the United States has vast coal reserves and the cost of mining it has decreased over the decades. Coal will stay cheap, and efforts are increasingly made to sequester at least part of all that carbon dioxide. The good news is that all coal plants in the US has to scrub out dirty particles like fly ash, so coal is not as dirty today as it was in the past. It provides steady power with little chance of interruption.
Texas Supports Energy Entrepreneurship
People who do not like coal still have their options. More and more private citizens are generating their own power. Some generate so much power that it becomes available for others and the state of Texas ends up paying them. Texas offers the “Power to Choose” both because it is politically useful and because Texas sees that many small independent power plants might decrease the load for major power companies. A surprising number of people have solar panels and wind turbines on their properties, and use these installations to generate extra income.
You Have Your Choice
A person living near a specific power plant does not have to buy electricity from it. They can get their power from one of the hundreds of independents. Different options entail different price tags, and getting your energy from an alternative source might actually be cheaper. Otherwise, choosing one utility company over another might be a long term investment. The price of natural resources can fluctuate, and some people fear the consequences of buying electricity from an outfit that burns oil. The “electric choice” also means being able to generate your own. Solar panels are expensive up front, but they pay for themselves over a few years. Without mechanical parts, solar panels can last for decades. Texas is also blessed with ample sunshine.
Natasha Risinger is an energy researcher. Her articles mainly appear on eco-related websites. Click the link TEXASELECTRICITYPROVIDERS.COM to learn more.