Are You Paying Too Much On Your Electric Bill?

Texas is leading the nation in Energy Deregulation. Because of the planning and implementation of a very efficient Energy Deregulation and Operating System by the Texas Legislature, Texans can now enjoy the benefits of competition. Texas created the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

The mission of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is to direct and ensure reliable and cost-effective operation of the electric grid and to enable fair and efficient market-driven solutions to meet customers’ electric service needs.

The ERCOT grid covers approximately 75 percent of the land area in Texas.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to approximately 20 million Texas customers – representing 85 percent of the state’s electric load and 75 percent of the Texas land area.

As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects 38,000 miles of transmission lines and more than 500 generation units.

ERCOT also manages financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers customer switching for 5.9 million Texans in competitive choice areas.

Balanced market rules are a basic element in Texas competition. Clear, predictable and well-designed rules help foster a stable electricity market. Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market rules are developed by participants from all aspects of the electricity industry. The rules and amendments are reviewed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas to ensure that they satisfy the public interest.


Texas lawmakers changed state law to allow customers to have more control over their purchase of electric service because they believe competition is good for Texas. Over time, competition for electric service is expected to lower rates and speed the development of new products and services.


In the past, one company provided all parts of your electric service (generation, transmission and distribution, and retail sales). With competition, these parts are separated into different companies. Generation, or production of electricity, was deregulated in 1995, resulting in an ample supply of new, cleaner and more efficient power plants throughout Texas.
The actual delivery of electricity across poles and wires to your home is called transmission and distribution. These services are provided to you by your local wires company, which is responsible for maintaining the poles and wires, and responding to emergencies and power outages as always. The Public Utility Commission continues to regulate transmission and distribution to ensure the safety and reliability of your electric service.
With electric competition, Retail Electric Providers sell electricity to you and provide functions such as customer service and billing. Retail Electric Providers compete for your business by offering lower prices, renewable energy options, added customer service benefits or other incentives.
No matter which Retail Electric Provider provides your service, the Public Utility Commission continues to enforce customer protections and regulate the delivery of electricity to ensure it is delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company .

Competition also is expected to create new jobs, stimulate economic development and help our environment.


All Retail Electric Providers must adhere to Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) rules and regulations designed to protect you against fraudulent, unfair, misleading, discriminatory or anti-competitive practices.

These protections include:

Non-Discrimination: In addition to standard discrimination prohibitions, a Retail Electric Provider may not deny service or discriminate in the marketing of electric service based on a customer’s income level, location in an economically distressed area, or qualification for low-income or energy efficiency services.

Slamming and Cramming: Slamming is switching your electric service provider without your permission. Cramming is adding charges to your electric bill for additional services without your permission. Both slamming and cramming are illegal.

Dispute Resolution: Retail Electric Providers must promptly investigate customer complaints and customers have the right to make complaints about a Retail Electric Provider to the PUC.

Privacy of Information: No Retail Electric Provider can release any customer-specific information to another Retail Electric Provider or any other companies without your permission.

Safety and Reliability: No matter which Retail Electric Provider you choose, the Public Utility Commission continues to enforce customer protections and regulate the delivery of electricity to ensure it is delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company.


When you choose a new electric provider, you are choosing the company that provides or sells you electricity – a company called a Retail Electric Provider. These companies purchase electricity from competing power plants, and electricity is delivered to your home or business over the same poles and wires that are in your neighborhood today.
The actual delivery of the electricity (“transmission and distribution”) is still provided by your local utility, now called a local wires company. In a competitive electric market, your local wires company will continue to be responsible for maintaining the poles and wires that deliver electricity to your home or business. You and your neighbors can all have different Retail Electric Providers, but you all have the same local wires company.
An important message from the Commissioners regarding Electric Choice and the reliability of your electric service. – 01/05


If you experience an emergency or power outage, you may call:
Your Retail Electric Provider, who will work with the local wires company to repair the problem, or connect you to your local wires company.
The number for repairs and emergencies printed on your electric bill.
Your local wires company as you do today.


HOUSTON, TEXAS (June 6, 2006 Transcript)

Families across our area can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars if they would only switch to an
energy provider that charges less. But you know what, most people just won’t switch and we’ve wondered
why. 11 News reporter Jeremy Diesel shows us what he’s uncovered. You have the power to choose.
Power that can literally save you hundreds of dollars a year on your bill. But in the four years since electricity deregulation began in Texas only a little more than 25% of people in the Houston area have left Reliant Energy, even though the price it’s forced to charge is generally the highest.

Minnie Lee Coleman is like so many others. ” If it gets unbearable here I will cut it off and just sacrifice
something else to pay my electric bill. Because paying half and part I don’t do that.” Last night she told
us she’s willing to sacrifice. But not willing to leave Reliant for a cheaper price. “I don’t trust them. And
that’s it.”

But why?

Houston Mayor Bill White is hoping to educate. “They should not question reliability as far as keeping
the lights on or what happens if there is a storm — who is going to turn back on the power.”
Here’s the deal, when deregulation happened five years ago, Reliant Energy divided into two completely
separate companies. Reliant which sells power and Centerpoint which delivers it. CenterPoint
owns the lines which carry power, maintain them and reads the meter no matter who your power
provider is.

Come storm time, its CenterPoint which restores power to those who lose it. Not the power provider
you pay. All of the power companies Reliant, TXU, Green Mountain, Commerce and more than a dozen
others all put their power on the Texas grid. Its then used by everyone. Your meter read by CenterPoint
shows the amount you used. CenterPoint forwards that information to your provider who bills you.
“Who you buy your power from does not affect the reliability of that power. But it can affect your
bottom line.

Questions – General
Q: What has stayed the same in electric service?

A: Your current Transmission and Distribution Utility, or “local wires company,” continues to deliver electricity to your home. Your local wires company still responds to service interruptions and continues to maintain the poles and wires. You will continue to receive the same reliable service you are used to with your local wires company, regardless of which Retail Electric Provider you receive service from.

Q: What has changed in electric service?

A: You can now choose to buy your electricity from a different electric provider than the original provider for your area. These companies are called Retail Electric Providers. Additionally, your bill now looks different than bills you have received in the past, but each Retail Electric Provider provides the same standard information.

Q: Do all Texans have the power to choose their electric provider?

A: No. City-owned utilities and member-owned electric cooperatives have the option of giving their customers a choice of providers, or keeping things the way they are today. To see if competition is active in your area call toll-free 1-866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839).

Q: What are the benefits of Electric Choice?

A: Texas’ electric rates are average, compared to the rest of the country, but our usage is among the highest in the nation due to demand for air conditioning during the long, hot summer season. Competition in other industries has often brought lower prices and innovative, new products and services. Having more control over your buying decision should make it easier to determine what matters most to you, whether it’s prices, renewable energy, customer service, or simply a name you know.
Electric competition also should help the environment because Retail Electric Providers must offer some energy from renewable energy sources. Renewable energy – such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass (gas released from landfills) – produce less air pollution than sources that rely on burning coal or natural gas.
The Texas power market is one of the most attractive in the country for new investment. Forty-seven new power plants have been built or are being built in Texas since 1995 (that’s almost one-fourth of all power plants being built or planned in the nation). The properties represent a $10 billion investment in Texas. These plants provide jobs and sales and tax revenue into local Texas communities.

Q: How does Electric Choice affect electric rates?

A: The base rates for residential and small commercial customers of investor-owned utilities in Texas were frozen from September 1, 1999, to December 31, 2002. On January 1, 2002, rates for most of these customers were lowered, creating the “Price to Beat.” The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider cannot charge above this rate until it loses 40 percent of its customers or five years pass, whichever comes first.

Q: If electric rates are frozen, why does my electric bill rise?

A: Texas law allows the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider (the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity) to ask the PUC to adjust the “fuel factor” portion of its rate when there are significant changes in the market price of natural gas and purchased energy. These requests, which may be made twice a year, are subject to PUC review and approval. The cost of natural gas has increased significantly over the last year, and fuel factors have been increased to reflect the higher cost of natural gas. For more information on how natural gas prices change please review Questions and Answers Regarding Natural Gas Prices.
The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is prohibited from making a profit on fuel costs. Competitive (or new to the area) Retail Electric Providers set their own electric service rates.

Q: With competition, will the reliability of my electric service change?

A: No. No matter which Retail Electric Provider you choose, your electricity will continue to be delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company, a company still regulated by the PUC.

Q: How does the new competition law protect the environment?

A: The law requires “grandfathered” power plants (those that predate the 1971 Texas Clean Air Act) to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions by at least 50 percent and sulfur dioxide by 25 percent before May 1, 2003.
Encourages upgrade or retirement of older power plants to meet emissions standards by allowing utilities to recoup the costs of retrofitting or retiring certain older power plants.
Provides incentives for energy efficiency programs that will result in less demand for the production of electricity.
Requires retail electric providers to buy an additional combined 2,000 megawatts of Texas renewable electric generation capacity statewide by January 2009, from sources that include wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass or geothermal.

Q: Do I have to switch from my current electric utility?

A: No. If you decide not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, your service will be provided by the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider. The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity and provides customer service.

Questions – Changing Providers

Q: Is there a penalty for changing providers?

A: There is no switching fee unless you request a special meter reading at a time other than your regularly scheduled meter reading. There may also be penalties if you break an existing contract with your current Retail Electric Provider. Review your Terms of Service agreement for details.

Q: If I sign up with a new Retail Electric Provider, when will the switch to that company happen?

A: Customers can choose a Retail Electric Provider at any time; however, you will not begin to receive power from your new Retail Electric Provider until after your next regularly scheduled meter reading. Before you are switched, you will receive written confirmation in the mail. You will receive your first electric bill from your new Retail Electric Provider on the following billing cycle.

Q: Do I have a right to cancel?

A: Yes. You may cancel within three days from when you receive your Terms of Service agreement by contacting the Retail Electric Provider. If you are hand-delivered a terms of service agreement or you sign up for service using the Internet, there is a three-day cancellation period. The confirmation that will be mailed to you will also provide a way to cancel your switch.

Q: What happens if my Retail Electric Provider stops serving customers?

A: You will not be without electricity. Your Retail Electric Provider must give you 30 days’ advance notice to give you time to select a new provider. However, if you do not choose a new provider, your service will automatically be switched to the Provider of Last Resort for your area.

Q: If I do not choose an electric provider, who will supply my electricity?

A: If you decided not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, your service is being provided by the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider. The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity and provides customer service.

Questions – Why is Texas different from California

Although Texas and California have similarly sized electric grids and similar growth in power demand, Texas put more than eight times the capacity online between 1996 and 1999 than California added.
The Texas power plant permitting process has a lead-time of two to three years to construct new power plants, while California’s lead-time is approximately seven years. Since 1995, 47 new power plants have been built or are being built in Texas, representing one-fourth of all power plants being built in the nation. California has built only two power plants since 1995.
New plant construction will allow power generators to easily meet the needs of residential and non-residential power users in our state.

Texas imports less than 1 percent of its power during peak power demand, compared to California, which imports at least 25 percent of its load during peak demand.
Long-term wholesale market contracts in Texas shield customers from price volatility. In Texas, power generators and Retail Electric Providers can negotiate wholesale power purchases for the lowest price, which benefits customers.

Texas enacted strong measures to protect customers during the transition to a fully competitive retail electric market. These measures have kept a lid on electric rates so Texas electric customers won’t see their electric bill double or triple.

You have a choice and now is the time to take control of your New Energy Options.

For more information contact:

Steve Thompson 512-892-3529


Sheriece Sinnema 505-352-4437


View DVD at

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Leadership Principles for Project Success

We all need and thrive for successful projects. But what exactly does project success mean? Is project success the successful and timely delivery within budget? Or is it the path to glory? Do results always matter the most? What else does project success mean? And what does it take to achieve project success? Does success fall from heaven? Is it limited to a lucky few who happen to be in the right place at the right time? Is it coincidence? Or can we actually plan success?

There is no doubt that good project management is a critical factor of project success. That is, a project cannot be run without project management, be it formal or informal. You need to have something that holds things together. Underlying is the assumption that we need some form of order to organize and run a project. Someone has to do something. In this sense, project management helps set a frame, providing structure and order to potential chaos. Without this structure a project leads to nowhere; it will most likely fail, if it ever takes off.

If you want to generate results out of seemingly chaos you have to build structure that enables creativity, innovation, and results. Project management provides excellent tools to build this structure. They are important and necessary for project success. But are they sufficient? I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, I claim that unless you gear them into the right direction, they remain ineffective. If you really want to secure project success you have to understand what it takes to set the right direction. Project management alone will not do the trick. What it takes is leadership – your leadership.

Without project leadership there is no direction in project management. Leadership is the decisive factor for improving the chances for projects to succeed. Consequently, effective project management needs to have a solid foundation based in project leadership. Without leadership, chances are that a project will be “just another project.”

Based on my own experience in project management and the review of literature on leadership, project management, business, systems, and complexity theory I have identified five simple yet powerful leadership principles which, if applied systematically, can help you pave the path to project success. The five leadership principles for project success are as follows:

  1. Build vision
  2. Nurture collaboration
  3. Promote performance
  4. Cultivate learning
  5. Ensure results

Let’s have a look at each principle one at a time.

Principle 1: Build Vision

Sharing a common vision and goals and having the same understanding about tracking the progress towards this vision is one of the key factors in the success of a project and team.

A project vision sets the overall picture of your project. Project objectives qualify this vision, make it specific. Both project vision and project objectives are crucial for project success. Together they set the direction and tone of your project journey. They complement each other. The vision inspires your journey. It defines the purpose of your project.

The key to building vision is that people need to be able to relate to the vision in their daily activities. Give them the chance to identify themselves with the vision. Involve them in building this vision and participate in making it real. This helps build rapport and the necessary buy-in from those people to realize the project. Make them fans of the vision. Let it constitute their motivation and passion. Let them rave about it.

The story of a visitor who was curious about construction site illustrates the power of a common project vision. This visitor approached a group of workers to find out more about the construction. The first worker replied that he was a brick layer. The second worker told him that he was building a wall. Then he asked a third worker. This one explained that he and the other people in his team were building a cathedral. The interesting thing was that each worker was actually doing the same activity. Yet the motivations and their attitude differed a great deal. The third worker knew what he was devoting his time and effort to something big. His project may have been to build a wall. But it was the project vision of building a cathedral which enticed him.

A project vision without project objectives may give you an idea of the direction, but you may never get close enough to the destination to produce tangible results at a certain time. On the other hand, project objectives without a vision may describe the desired end result and time frame, but they cannot inspire the necessary enthusiasm in your team to drive the project to success. They do not form an underlying meaning for the work.

As a project leader you must make sure that both project vision and project objectives are in place. Project leaders do not start a project without a project vision and objectives. If you want to be or become a project leader, you either build vision and project objectives or make sure that both are in place, are crystal clear, and are mutually understood by every single person actively involved in the project. This is the meaning of the first leadership principle. Start with a unified vision and know where you stand before and during your project. Know your environment, know your potential, and identify your limits and overcome them. Build and involve your team and nurture effective collaboration across the board. This brings us to the second leadership principle: nurture collaboration.

Principle 2: Nurture Collaboration

A performing team yields synergy effects; the impossible becomes possible. This is why active team collaboration is crucial.

Project success is not about individual accomplishments. The project team delivers the project. As such, the team is the heart and soul of the project. Corollary, project success is, or at least should always be, the success of the team. Effective project leaders understand the value and huge potential of teamwork. This is why they actively nurture collaboration. They serve as role models and are part of the team. They thus actively participate and contribute to teamwork.

Collaboration is necessary for the team to achieve the vision and project objectives. By the same token, the project vision must include the concept of collaboration; it needs to be part of the vision as well as the project objectives. Collaboration is a means to achieve the objectives and thus to come closer to achieving the vision. It is a central element of every project. This is why vision and collaboration go hand in hand. You cannot move achieve project results without collaboration. On the other hand, collaboration without a common cause leads nowhere.

Collaboration is the juice of teamwork; it is what makes teamwork possible in the first place. It encompasses communication, individual and joint execution, as well as the delivery of results on both the individual and team level.

If you want to nurture collaboration you need to start with yourself. Be a role model to others: Share information openly. Give and accept open and constructive feedback. Be a good team player and work with your team.

Understand that the project is about the team. Project leadership becomes team leadership. It implies that if you want to be an effective project leader you have to be a good team player, too.

Nurturing collaboration can be hard at times. It takes a lot of effort and can be quite time consuming. The payoffs, however, are worth every minute invested. Having mutually understood and supported rules of engagement, characterized by open communication and effective collaboration, makes project life much easier. Once you have helped create an atmosphere of trust, team spirit, and fun, team synergy effects emerge. Magical things can happen, productivity increases, and the quality of the team’s deliverables is higher. Nurturing collaboration prepares the ground for performance on the individual and team level. As a project leader you want to cultivate this soil of performance. This leads us to the third leadership principle: promoting performance.

Principle 3: Promote Performance

Planning is good and important. At the end of the day you and your team have to perform. As a leader it is your responsibility to create an environment that promotes performance, on both the individual and team levels.

Building vision and nurturing collaboration are prerequisites for project success. Alas, they are useless if you cannot move your team to the performance stage. This is why you want to create an environment that helps promote performance. The following rules help achieve this.

Rule 1: Be a role model.

No matter what project you are working on, be aware that as project leader you are a role model to your own team and others. Act as such. Walk your own talk and be true to your own principles. Demonstrate authentic leadership.

Rule 2: Create the right environment.

If you want to promote performance in your team, take the time and find out what motivates each individual team member and the team as a whole. Discover what the individual team members and the complete team need to perform. Learn how you can help the team perform.

Rule 3: Empower your team.

You have to enable your team to do its job and perform. Give your team the power and all the information it needs to do its job and perform. Give your team the opportunity to excel and have an active hand in project success.

Rule 4: Develop a solution-and-results orientation toward problems and risks.

Performing teams focus on solutions and results rather than problems. A problem or risk is not seen as a potential show-stopper but a chance to learn and prove skills and competencies on the individual and group levels.

Rule 5: Invite productive competition

Productive competitiveness can actually help promote performance – provided that the competitiveness aims at improving team performance and is linked with collaboration and social sharing.

Rule 6: Let it happen

When you and your team have jointly built a common vision and developed collaboration rules, there should be no need to micromanage team members. Trust your team and let the team do its job.

Rule 7: Celebrate performance

“Look for behaviors that reflect the purpose and values, skill development, and team work, and reward, reward, reward those behaviors” (Blanchard, K. H., et al (2001). High Five! The Magic of Working Together. New York: HarperCollins. p. 190). Make sure that this celebration coincides with the successful project delivery.

Lasting performance can be achieved. It takes practice, training, endurance, and a results-driven attitude toward project challenges to develop and sustain it. Yet, performance and project success do not fall from heaven. You have to prepare and work for them, learning from mistakes and failures. There cannot be performance without training or learning. This leads us to the fourth leadership principle: cultivating learning.

Principle 4: Cultivate Learning

As humans we all make mistakes. Effective leaders encourage their teams to explore new avenues and to make mistakes and learn from them. An effective leader builds in sufficient time for the team to learn, create, and innovate.

As project leader, you serve as partner and coach for learning and information sharing. You facilitate learning. You are not the sole source of information. Instead, create a learning environment in your team. Set the expectation that you want everyone in your team to join and support you in cultivating learning for the purpose of the project.

Learning is not a one-time activity, say, in the form of formal training prior or at the beginning of your project. It is ongoing and should become daily routine in your team. Establish regular sessions with your team where you review past performance, share information about planned accomplishments, address and resolve impediments together. Invite external reviews. Outside views offer different perspectives; fresh and unspoiled perspectives. If they aim to help the team identify formerly unknown risks and issues and overcome them, external project reviews can be a great learning opportunity.

When you or your team make mistakes, learn from them. Correct your shortcomings, improve your performance, and continue to work toward accomplishing the project vision. Cultivate learning from the beginning of your project. It significantly increases the speed at which your team can perform and sustain performance throughout and thus secure delivery.

Create room for your team members to be creative, to try something new, share their ideas, and learn from each other. Plan in sufficient time for your team to think outside the box, beyond the known path traveled, and to find new avenues to reach the goals of the projects. Empower your team to perform, make mistakes, learn, and innovate. This helps reduce uncertainty as information flows more freely. Team members are not afraid of making mistakes. They see mistakes as learning opportunities and they help each other solve problems. Corollary, if you want performance to yield the desired results you have to cultivate learning. There cannot be lasting performance without learning, and there cannot be results without performance.

Principle 5: Ensure Results

Delivering results is both a prerequisite and an outcome of effective project leadership. Project delivery is a team effort, not an individual effort. The effective project leader builds and guides the team to deliver results by incorporating the first four leadership principles.

Ensuring results is not solely about end results. Neither is project success and project leadership. The fifth principle calls on us that in all our activities we keep the project vision in mind and produce results that benefit the purpose of the project. Project success is not defined by a single product or service delivered at the completion of a project. It is the accumulation of the many results yielded from each and every leadership principle. Vision, collaboration, performance, and learning are just as important. They culminate in results. When you talk about project success, the path to project results matters too. Corollary, an effective project leader always looks beyond the delivery of results.

The fifth principle of ensuring results reminds us that we have to make sure the results of the other four principles are aligned with the project vision and objectives. They have to serve the project purpose. Ensuring results is thus not an activity focusing only on the final project deliverables. It appeals to us that all of our project activities shall be results oriented, keeping the end deliverables in mind. It is a call for solution- and results-oriented leadership.

Ensuring results offer excellent learning opportunities, which in turn help boost collaboration, improve performance, give rise to innovation, and thus move us closer to realizing the project vision. Ongoing project results serve as a reflection of project leadership and how well the five leadership principles practiced. They reveal the true quality of team collaboration, team performance, and team learning. It is a form of quality assurance of effective project leadership for project success.

Dynamic Project Leadership

No single principle is the most important. It is the combination of all five leadership principles that helps secure project success. Building vision is the principle to start with, but you cannot achieve results if you do not embrace all five principles together as one system. Leadership is not merely the sum of applying the five principles. It is understanding and living the dynamics within each principle as well as all five principles as a unit.

If you want to gain a deeper understanding of one particular leadership principle, you need to account for the remaining four principles and how they relate to the one you are looking at.

Applying the five leadership principles in daily project life requires the project leader to practice all five principles constantly and consistently. It is an ongoing exercise. Depending on where you are in a project, there may be a stronger emphasis on one or two principles. But you cannot isolate one from the others. Holistic leadership comprises all five principles.

The five leadership principles serve as a guideline to effective leadership and how it contributes to project success. Following and practicing them is no guarantee for project success, but they make it more likely. They address the core of project success and thus improve the chances for success significantly.

Project success starts and ends with project leadership. However, as much as the leadership principles can be applied by every team member regardless of his or her role, leadership is not limited to a single person or role. We know that as project leaders we cannot succeed by ourselves. We need the help and support of our teams. This is why it is important to build teams and empower them to perform and deliver. Project success is not about individual accomplishments. It is a joint effort and should be treated and honored as such. Understanding the principles can be the first step toward project success. It is up to you to take this step and move forward.

Thomas Juli is author of “Leadership Principles for Project Success” (CRC Press, New York, 2010; ), a book about project success.

He is an experienced, enthusiastic and results-driven manager providing leading edge program, interim and operational management offering more than 13 years of progressive leadership and management experience in various functions including project and program management, management consulting, business analysis, professional training and academic teaching. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) by the Scrum Alliance.

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