Company taps Texas energy market to get deals for consumers

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Editor’s Note: A graphic in the video mistakenly identifies the state-run website customers can use to compare energy rates. The correct state-run comparison website is powertochoose.org. The one identified, choosetexaspower.org, is a commercial entity that offers a similar service

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Around the world, consumers are getting discounts on cell phone bills, car insurance, even health insurance. It’s happening in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom. And recently, deals on energy bills are extending into Texas.

One Big Switch, a “people power” company that uses the buying power of its members to unlock deals, serves as a go-between for consumers looking for a discount, and Texas energy companies looking for customers.

“It’s group buying but for household bills,” the Australia-based company’s head of operations for North America, David Liston, said. 

“For the consumer, the average man or woman at home, they get a discount, they get a saving. For the energy provider, they’re happy to give that discount because they have the opportunity to get a lot more customers. To get those customers, they’ll offer the discount and offer One Big Switch a commission,” Liston said.

One Big Switch sought out Texas because of the state’s deregulated energy market.

“The Texas energy market in particular is extremely confusing, and we recognize this,” Liston explained. “People didn’t know how to shop around. There are all sorts of traps and tricks laid in energy rate plans so we came in to give a bit more transparency, a little more power to the consumer and help them get a good deal.”

Many Texans have a choice of who to buy their energy supply from, which allows customers to compare rates. One Big Switch helps consumers play the field to negotiate rates.

While the company is expanding, this is not a brand new idea in Texas.

According to a spokesperson for the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC), which regulates rates and services of the public utilities in Texas, One Big Switch has been a registered aggregator since 2015. An aggregator is a group or person that brings retail energy customers together, aiming to seek better prices or services.

“It is simply one aspect of a competitive market design that has been bringing greater choice to Texans,” PUC spokesperson Andrew Barlow said in an email.

The PUC operates an online search tool which helps customers compare and select electric plans, called Power to Choose. Other organizations run similar functions. The discounts, just like ones aggregated by One Big Switch, only help in areas of Texas where customers can choose their own energy providers.

Electric cooperatives and municipally-owned utilities can opt out in favor of their own service. Some have, meaning those customers only have one option for electricity.

One Big Switch has more than 77,000 members in Texas, compared to its one million-plus members in Australia. As it grows in the United States, company leaders hope to unlock more deals, like broadband and insurance, for Americans.

“We thought we could come in here and really straighten it [the Texas energy market] out,” Liston said. “Get some people some good deals and shine a bit more light on how confusing it can be in Texas.”

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