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Some of the most anticipated films of any year aren’t movie sequels but their prequels, like this year’s Monsters University. After all, haven’t you wondered why Monstropolis residents are scared of children or how our favorite monsters got to be scarers? Just like sequels, some of these movies can be a satisfying two-hour ride that answers all our questions while some are a waste of those two hours!
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Today, more than ever before, our lives are dependent on our access to electricity. What’s shocking is that while our dependence grows, our nation’s aging infrastructure becomes more stressed with each passing day. Rather than submitting to the fate of an overtaxed system, wouldn’t you rather take your electricity access into your own hands?
Generators provide consumers with an alternative to relying on the power grid, providing access to electricity in case the grid goes down. Whether you lose power due to a natural disaster or a supply issue, having a personal generator can keep your lights on regardless of what the rest of your block has to deal with.
In this infographic we take a look at the different types of generators and give you the information you need to decide which model would serve your needs best.
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Catching a Glimpse of Humanity’s Global Impact
What does it take to even out humanity’s impact on the world? In the past few years all sorts of carbon-related terms have become recognizable enough for dinner-table discussions, but what do they all mean?
Today we bring you the story of carbon offsets, outputs and footprints.
It can be hard to wrap our heads around things that aren’t tangible or visible, let alone things that can cost upward of several trillion dollars.
In an effort to make sense of it all, we broke down the numbers with scales everyone can understand. While the price tag of our worldwide carbon footprint may be a little overwhelming, understanding just how big it is could be the best first step to making a dent in it!
Scroll down to see what Bringing the World Back to Zero really takes!
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In the scope of Texas’ energy market, deregulation has brought about some big changes for businesses and homeowners alike. The one you’re probably most familiar with is that you now have the power to choose your retail electric provider. For Texans, that’s huge. You can’t go wrong with more choice if you’re looking for a specific type of service.
What people sometimes neglect to acknowledge is all the other ways that deregulation is helping Texans. Here are just a few:
Keep in mind, these retail electric providers are more than just your options. They’re each other’s competitors. Like any good business, each provider will go to great lengths to gain customers and keep them satisfied. That leaves them no other choice but to offer enticing promos, more competitive pricing and a more expansive set of products. Clearly, that works to your benefit. A provider needs to hone in on every facet of its service if it wants to attract your business.
With so many providers opening their doors at the dawn of deregulation, it’s only logical that a new crop of jobs have popped up along with them. Whether it’s in the technical field, in a managerial position or on the marketing/sales side of things, retail electric providers have hired versatile, sizable staffs to keep operations running smoothly. It’s pretty neat having so many opportunities to work in a burgeoning field like the energy industry.
The benefits of choosing your own provider extend beyond the price you’re getting. Perhaps just as importantly, deregulation dictates what kind of customer service you’re getting. When you’re dealing with something as vital as your electric service, you deserve attention to detail. In the days of old, the monopoly supplier could provide shoddy customer service with virtually no repercussions. Either you moved to an area that’s served by someone else or you put up with the unresponsiveness of your supplier. Now, if you’re not getting the treatment you expect from your provider, you can switch to a new one in just a matter of days. There’s no hassle and no service interruption – only the customer service you deserve.
If you haven’t taken advantage of everything deregulation has to offer, what’s stopping you? Make sure you’re getting the service you deserve at a sensible price. And hey – if you’re on the job hunt, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look around at the opportunities within the industry.
By now, you know what a huge perk it is having the ability to infuse green energy into your electric service. It’s easier than ever to chip in – even consumers with a passing interest in sustainable energy can contribute toward the green movement by choosing the right package from their retail electric provider. Once you get started with a green energy plan though, you might start wondering what is else out there. Most providers advertise their ties to wind farms or solar arrays, but those aren’t the only ways to generate sustainable energy. Thanks to recent developments in the industry, there are a lot of other green solutions out there.
Wave power, while still in its adolescent stages, is an interesting prospect for renewable energy supporters. The concept is dependent on the speed, size and density of ocean waves. Just like solar panels or wind turbines, wave converters are placed strategically to get the most of the resource they’re drawing from. Some may be close to the shoreline, while others may be far out at sea.
Today, wave power doesn’t have the same following as wind power or solar power. However, that might change in the coming years. Scientists have long acknowledged the huge amount of energy contained in waves, and it’s only a matter of time before we figure out how to extract it faster, more efficiently and in greater quantities.
Much like wave power, hydrogen power doesn’t have the same renown that some of the more well-known green energy sources have. Nonetheless, it’s a really promising contributor to the green energy movement for a few different reasons, the first being that it doesn’t release carbon dioxide. In fact, in its purest form, all it releases is pure water. Unfortunately, it can be difficult and somewhat dangerous to extract energy from hydrogen, but scientists are constantly working to make it a more viable process.
Biomass is considered to be any fuel source that’s drawn from organic matter. A lot of times, this means fuel that’s drawn from plants. The reason biomass is considered sustainable is because of the real time carbon transaction it has with the atmosphere. For example, a plant may draw some amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then emit it back into the environment once it’s been harvested for fuel. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, contain carbon absorptions from millions of years ago that are cast out into the atmosphere in heavy quantities.
Hopefully, there will be a time when everyday consumers start to make use of lesser-known green energy like wave power, hydrogen power and biomass. In the meantime, make sure you’re using green energy in whatever capacity you can.
ERCOT – As a consumer, you’ve most likely heard the name before, but do you know exactly what it does? There’re so many acronyms in Texas’ deregulated market, it’s tough to keep your head wrapped around all of them. ERCOT, however, is a big one – especially if you want to know how your electric service is supervised and maintained.
Officially called the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT was founded in 1970, becoming the primary overseer of Texas’ power grid. Essentially, that means it’s responsible for managing the stream of electricity to about 23 million electric customers. These 23 million customers all fall within the jurisdiction of the ERCOT region, which encompasses about 75% of the state’s landmass and 85% of the state’s power grid. Remember, not all of Texas is deregulated. ERCOT manages areas where residents have the power to choose a retail electric provider.
ERCOT is a nonprofit organization, which focuses on the well-being of Texas consumers rather than its own financial gain. Specifically, ERCOT serves Texans by ensuring the reliability of their electric service. It goes about doing so in a number of different ways, some of which include:
Assisting the sign-up and switching process between retail electric providers.
Helping organize Texas’ wholesale electric market and retail electric market.
Maintaining nondiscriminatory policies for buyers and sellers of electricity around the ERCOT region.
ERCOT is also part of a larger network known as NERC. NERC, which stands for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, is a macro organization that helps develop and oversee the bulk power system in the U.S. and Canada. ERCOT is one of several organizations that works closely with NERC to ensure the safety and dependability of electricity’s transmission across nearly every part of the United States and Canada.
While most Texans won’t have much interaction with ERCOT (or NERC, for that matter), they can rest assured that they’re in good hands. Every year, ERCOT works to sustain and improve the Texas customer’s electric supply. No matter your provider, no matter your plan, ERCOT is making sure that you get the most out of your electric service.
In 1901, a field to the south of Beaumont, Texas erupted with the largest oil gusher known at the time. It took nine days to cap the outburst, but once it was under control, Beaumont shot to the front page of every newspaper across the state. As Texas’ first boomtown, Beaumont became a hot destination for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to gain a foothold in the oil industry. Ever since, Texas has been well-known for its oil production, with companies such as Exxon-Mobil and Marathon taking up residence in the region. Even the gone-but-not-forgotten NFL team the Houston Oilers took a cue from the state’s most popular industry.
These days, a similar story is unfolding in the Lone Star State: the development of wind power. Much like oil, wind is harnessed to power homes and businesses all across Texas, but there’s a key difference: Wind power doesn’t come with the burden of all the toxic emissions you hear about with fossil fuels. Wind farms have the capability to take kinetic energy and convert it into mechanical energy with hardly any pollution at all.
Another cool thing about wind energy in Texas is that there’s no centralized location for collection and production. Wind farms – from massive, public operations to small, private fields – stretch across most areas of the state. A lot of the strongest gusts and greatest energy potential exist around the Panhandle, but that’s far from the only region Texas has capitalized on. It’s this holistic mentality that allows Texas to excel as a leader in the industry.
Texas nearly doubles the next closest state in terms of wind power production. If every one of its wind farms were to operate at full capacity, Texas would be able to generate more than 10,000 megawatts. Iowa, which dons the silver medal, would only be able to produce around 4,300 megawatts. The largest wind farm in Texas is the Roscoe Wind Farm, located in west central Texas. It has 627 wind turbines and the capability to power more than 250,000 average homes in Texas.
With the way our society is moving, it seems only logical that Texas will be an integral part in transitioning our large-scale energy production to a more sustainable model. In addition to all the wind power opportunities that Texas provides, it’s also a prime candidate to house the expansion of solar energy. In any case, Texans should be proud of the way their state is headlining the boom of renewable energy.
During the course of last year there were many important Texas energy news events. Now that 2012 has officially drawn to a close, it’s worth taking a few minutes to look back at the major electricity events that took place during the year. Surprisingly to some, the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas has found that the overall electricity use in Texas actually fell 2.7 percent during 2012 in comparison to 2011, though some of that is surely due to the fact that 2011 was the hottest year on record in Texas.
There were a few concerns voiced throughout 2012 about the strength of the Texas power grid, a problem that hasn’t been adequately addressed, thanks in part to the falling demand statewide. Still, the most talked about news story of 2012 for the electricity industry was the continuation of the smart meter installation project taking place in many of the utility service territories.
Introducing the smart meter
Since 2009, utilities in the competitive areas of the Texas electricity market have been installing smart meters at customers’ homes and businesses. It’s estimated that as of December 2012, 90% of consumers have had smart meters installed on their property, but during 2012 there were a growing number of complaints being filed with the Public Utilities Commission over the implementation of smart meters.
In general, smart meters are touted as the next big thing in the electricity market because they allow consumers, utilities and retailers to keep better tabs on electricity use. Smart meters enable utilities, retailers and consumers to take a reading on a much shorter period than a traditional monthly reading done by a service technician. In fact, some smart meters take readings every 15 minutes.
The regularity of readings afforded by smart meters allows retailers to offer new plans with rates that vary based on the time of day electricity is used. Many industry officials feel that these plans, which charge higher rates during peak usage times, are ideal for helping encourage the public to change their usage patterns. If more consumers use more electricity during non-peak periods, it will be much easier to reduce the overall stress on the Texas electricity grid.
The problem with smart meters in some consumers’ eyes revolves around the same concept. Some people don’t like the idea that their energy consumption will be followed so closely, likening it to an invasion of privacy. In one case during 2012, a resident actually drew a firearm on a utility worker who was attempting to install a smart meter on her property.
In response to all the controversy surrounding the blanket installation of smart meters, the PUC announced in December 2012 that it was exploring a new program to allow residents to opt out of the push for smart meter installation. Although details have yet to be hammered out, there will likely be a surcharge involved for those consumers who refuse to have a smart meter installed, but the option will be back on the table.
There are some misconceptions about energy deregulation in Texas, and most of them are a result of the ambiguity of the term “deregulation.” Many people believe that energy deregulation means the government has taken off its gloves and allowed the market to take care of itself. While deregulation allows for lots of freedoms on the part of retailers and consumers alike, the idea that there is no governmental oversight is not true.
Rather than an absence of government control, deregulation is best described as the absence of market conditions that foster a monopoly. Before deregulation, each utility company had a virtual monopoly on its service area. Today, areas that are deregulated have active competition between retail electric providers.
In Texas, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) still has a level of control over the energy market as a whole. You may know that some areas of Texas have yet to be deregulated. That’s because the PUC has determined that the market conditions aren’t adequate for fostering competition.
Before any market in Texas is deregulated, the move has to be approved by the PUC. Likewise, in order for a retail electric provider to begin selling electricity packages in Texas, it has to submit to the rules enforced by the PUC. Retail electric providers are required to become certified and register as retailers in Texas by following PUC procedures.
Controlling the registration process of retail electric providers is just one of the ways the PUC continues to regulate the energy market within the deregulated Texas system. The PUC also oversees the actions and decisions of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT is in charge of managing the flow of electricity around 85% of the state’s grid and administering customers’ changes to new retail electric providers.
Despite being a deregulated market in name, energy in Texas is still regulated in some regards by government and other institutions. Some form of oversight is necessary to ensure a safe, effective and competitive energy market. Deregulation does allow Texans the power to choose where they purchase their energy supply.
Regulation within a deregulated market also allows consumers to have a clear path of recourse if they are taken advantage of by a retail provider or utility company. The right mixture of regulation and freedom is what gives Texans the power to choose their electricity provider.
Here in Texas, businesses have the same rights when it comes to choosing an electricity supplier as individual residents do. Deregulation does not keep businesses in the dark when it comes to benefiting from the increased competition among retail electricity providers that the system was designed to foster. Whether you have a small business or a large firm with numerous locations, shopping for business electricity plans doesn’t have to be difficult. There are a number of tools available to business owners to make the entire process less complicated.
Taking the first step
Before you go any further toward choosing an electricity plan, it’s important to take a close look at your business’ historical electricity usage to develop the clearest picture of what your electricity needs actually are. Depending on your business’ normal use, there are options when it comes to rate structures that might help you to save money on the unavoidable costs of supplying your location or locations with electricity.
For some businesses, electricity plans with fixed rates may be the best option. For one, a fixed rate will allow your accounting department to better predict what your electricity expenses will be from one month to the next, particularly if you’ve historically used about the same amount of electricity each month.
If you operate a business that doesn’t use a lot of electricity regardless of what month it is, you may want to look into a plan with a variable rate instead. Variable rates can fluctuate depending on the overall conditions of the energy market, but that can work to your advantage. If market pricing goes down, your rates will go down and vice versa.
As with any other significant purchase, you need to shop around for business electricity rates. You wouldn’t buy a new fleet of vehicles or a new point-of-sale system without doing your homework, and the same should go for electricity plans. Get some offers to compare from a variety of reputable retailers. You can even select plans with different rate structures and do a little analysis before making a final decision. Your accounting department may be able to extrapolate some predictions based on the information you already gathered about your usage in the past.
If you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated accounting department to do the number crunching for you, don’t despair. With so many options available, shopping for the right electricity plan can be a little overwhelming. If you don’t know where to begin, you’ve already gotten off to a good start. Educating yourself on the process and your options is critical to getting the right electricity plan for your business.
There are even some services available to business owners that can help make the process easier. If you’re particularly pressed for time, brokerages can help take apart your usage history and search around for electricity plans for you. The advantages to enlisting the help of a professional are numerous. In many cases brokers have unique relationships with retailers, sometimes going back years. These relationships can help you get better deals on your electricity rates, and their industry experience can help you steer clear of retailers that don’t have the best reputation for service to businesses.
If you don’t have the funds in your budget for paying a private broker, there are other resources. Many independent websites today offer price comparisons online, allowing you to see the details of different electricity plans before you buy. In some cases these sites even have entire departments geared specifically to the needs of businesses with representatives who can help you negotiate deals with any retailer in your service area.
Securing the rate you want
Once you find an electricity plan that fits your business’ needs perfectly, sign up! There’s no reason to spend more than you have to on electricity, particularly if you are dealing with contract stipulations that limit the profitability of your business. Making a good decision on your electricity plan can result in positive ripples for your entire business, so take your time and find the right solution. Your bottom line will show its appreciation!