Nearly 50,000 Texans who currently must buy power from the monopoly utility will start seeing offers from competing electric providers in early 2014, as the state moves the former Cap Rock Energy service areas to retail choice.

As® has previously noted, the former Cap Rock Energy service areas -- which are now the Brady, Celeste, Colorado City, and Stanton divisions of Sharyland Utilities, L.P. -- are to be moved to retail choice starting in May 2014.  There are about 50,000 customers at these divisions of Sharyland Utilities.

Once competition starts, it means customers will be able to choose and switch electricity providers, just as they can pick their cellular provider, long distance provider, cable/satellite company, etc.  Electric choice will provide customers in Brady, Celeste, Colorado City, Stanton and surrounding areas the power to save money on their electric bills -- the same savings currently enjoyed by customers in Dallas, Houston, Corpus Christi and other parts of the state.

As part of the transition to retail choice, Sharyland Utilities recently filed a transition plan under which retail electric providers may start submitting electronic transactions for customer switches in February 2014, in advance of the May 2014 opening of competition.

This means that retail electric providers will likely start marketing their offers to customers in January 2014, or even earlier -- in less than eight months.

Customers in these service areas will want to affirmatively choose a retail electric provider by April 2014, because otherwise they will be assigned to a "default" retail electric provider (REP), which can charge a monthly rate determined by the REP.  Customers may always freely switch away from the default REP, but savings can be maximized if the customer is never placed with the default REP in the first place.

And the savings from electric choice are expected to be significant for customers at Sharyland's Brady, Celeste, Colorado City, and Stanton divisions.  Currently, a residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month at Sharyland pays an average rate of about 10¢/kWh to the monopoly utility.  In the Oncor service area, the service area with electric choice that is closet and most similar to Sharyland, rates from competing electric providers are as low as 8¢/kWh.

That could mean savings of $20 per month, and $240 per year, for residential customers at Sharyland, and much larger savings for business customers who use more energy.