Texans who can shop for lower electricity prices through sites like SaveOnEnergy.com may not know it, but not everyone in the state can choose their own energy supplier.

The benefits of that freedom to choose were evident last week, when, right before Independence Day, the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) saddled Northeast Texas customers with a bill for $500 million to pay for a new power plant for SWEPCO, the monopoly electric company in that region. Customers in the SWEPCO territory can't broadly choose their own energy provider, can't benefit from customized, lower pricing, and can't avoid the hefty bill the state's regulators just handed them. Since customers can't choose, it means they have to pay for any power plants SWEPCO builds with state approval, even if the plants turn out to be bad investments or more costly than other alternatives.

The new SWEPCO power plant has been the subject of great debate. Many customers, such as industrial users, argue the plant is too expensive and isn't needed.

"We are clearly disappointed by the commission's ruling and concerned about the impact it will have on Northeast Texas ratepayers," said Eric Bearse of the consumer group Texas Electric Ratepayers Alliance.

Even the PUC, in approving the plant, raised concerns about potential cost overruns that could leave customers footing the bill for a dinosaur if technical innovations or carbon regulation make the coal-fired power plant obsolete.

But for most Texans, these concerns are a thing of the past. In the 1990s, the PUC stopped guaranteeing profits for electric companies in most of the state by opening the area known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to competition. ERCOT covers about 75% of Texas' land area, and includes the utilities Oncor, CenterPoint, AEP Texas Central, AEP Texas North, Texas New Mexico Power and Sharyland. If you're a customer of one of these utilities, it means you have the power to choose your energy supplier, and have been freed from the burden of guaranteeing profits for power plants.

It also means independent electric companies are competing head to head for your business, which means savings for you.

SaveOnEnergy.com offers customers a quick, reliable and hassle-free way to check out these competing offers, and assure themselves that they're getting the best deal.

Residential customers can simply select their area and see a list of the best offers out there, with SaveOnEnergy.com highlighting the best deals. From the comfort of their home, anytime of day or night, customers can shop around for cheap electricity prices. Many of the electricity products on SaveOnEnergy.com include valuable bonuses for customers, such as airline miles, gift certificates, cash-back offers, and bill credits. Texans can also choose to help the environment by picking from a selection of renewable and green electricity products.

Business customers get access to SaveOnEnergy.com's unique commercial retail exchange portal which pits eight energy suppliers against each other to give each business the best rate possible. Rather than having to call a bunch of different energy providers for quotes, business owners can submit their information just once to SaveOnEnergy.com and compare up to eight electricity prices to find the cheapest rate. It couldn't be easier.

And, with another electric company leaving the market last week, customers can rest easy that SaveOnEnergy.com screens its energy suppliers so only those which are financially robust and reliable are listed. It's piece of mind customers can't find when going it alone.

All this is possible because customers in the ERCOT region aren't tied to specific power plants, and aren't forced to pay a specific rate of return to a power plant owner. For customers at SWEPCO, this freedom is going to take a bit longer to attain.