Texas Power Suppliers Keep Users Hooked by Turning Lights Off

By Harry Weber, Bloomberg News

September 22, 2015 — 6:01 PM CDT

Updated on September 22, 2015 — 11:21 PM CDT 

Number of electricity providers more than doubled since 2004

Texans change power supplier at fastest rate in U.S.

Imagine if your power supplier could tell you that you forgot to turn the bathroom light off or left the stove on, and you could fix it with a tap on your phone.

This is the latest perk that Texas power companies including Centrica Plc’s Direct Energy and NRG Energy Inc.’s Reliant are developing in a race to attract and keep customers. In a state where users switch providers more often than anywhere else in the U.S., they’ve already tried everything from doling out gift cards to offering free power on nights and weekends.

Their efforts are critical in Texas, home to both the biggest competitive power market and the most electricity demand in the U.S. The number of electricity suppliers competing for customers in the state has more than doubled since 2004, and with annual churn rates as high as 40 percent, a handful of companies are betting on remote-monitoring technology to give them an edge over rivals.

“It’s like eight guys out on the corner selling roses and they’re offloading the roses from the same truck,” Ed Hirs, a lecturer on energy economics at the University of Houston, said in a telephone interview. “There’s just no value add, no hook to keep them.”

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