As energy prices continue this year’s trend of going up, up and up, Texas residents who haven’t locked-in their electricity price yet may want to do so before rates start rising appreciably, and a website like SaveOnEnergy.com makes things clear and simple for new electric shoppers comparing offers for the first time.

Last summer, electric customers were wise to shop for short-term deals because natural gas was hovering in the $6/mmbtu range. But by the start of 2008, the price of natural gas had crept up to around $8, and now it’s trading near $10. It’s part of a rising tide of energy prices that saw the average statewide Texas gasoline price hit yet another record to end the week, with one gallon of regular unleaded hitting $3.214.

Texas power prices are closely correlated to natural gas prices, because 70% of the electricity used to power the state’s main grid comes from power plants burning natural gas. That means when natural gas costs more, the electricity produced from it tends to cost more as well.

Energy suppliers that sell power to residential customers at the retail level try to hold back any increase for as long as possible, because they’re afraid someone else will come and undercut them, stealing their customers.

That gives customers a chance to buy before higher gas prices force electricity suppliers to raise their rates, and right now is one of those times.

Competition has thus far mitigated any serious rise in Texas electric rates as natural gas prices have jumped, but suppliers may not be able to hold the line much longer.

It’s especially important to shop around on a site like SaveOnEnergy.com if you’ve never switched from your “incumbent” provider, or the electric company you’ve always bought power from. You could be paying much more for power than you need to, without a guarantee your price won’t go up soon because of higher natural gas prices.

For example, if you live in Houston and have always bought from Reliant Energy, you may still be paying over 15¢ for electricity, or more, without the guarantee that your prices won’t go up in the next 12 to 24 months.

SaveOnEnergy.com provides customers a simple way to check electricity prices and see whether locking-in a fixed rate is a good idea for them right now, and brings the best and most innovative products right to customers’ computer screens. Right now, energy suppliers competing on the website are offering products with special features and bonuses, such as airline miles, gift cards and bill credit coupons, plus additional convenience services, such as online or credit card billing. All you have to do is take a look at the comparisons and decide which supplier is right for you.

For example, despite rising gas prices, customers in the Houston area can still choose from among four fixed-priced plans under or at 15¢/kWh on SaveOnEnergy.com, from providers that have been vetted and scrutinized by the website. Not only would you save money on these plans compared to the old Reliant price, but you’d also be guaranteed that your prices wouldn’t go up over a fixed period of time, either 12 months or 24 months -- no matter how high gas prices climb.

TXU Energy is offering the lowest fixed-price plan on SaveOnEnergy.com in the Houston area, at 14.2¢/kWh locked-in for 12 months. New customers also get a $50 Bill Credit Coupon for switching to TXU.

Gexa’s Guaranteed Plan may be one of the most popular products because of its additional bonus -- frequent flyer miles on American Airlines or Continental Airlines. Customers earn either 2,000 American Advantage or Continental One Pass frequent flyer miles just for choosing Gexa, which is offering a fixed-price of 14.7¢/kWh for 12 months. Customers on the plan also earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on electricity every month and can pay via American Express, MasterCard, and Visa for convenience.

In the Houston area, Cirro Energy is offering its Smart Pass 12 product at 14.4¢/kWh for one year. In addition to the low, fixed price, Cirro offers online billing, payment by credit card, or by bank draft or telephone. No deposit is required for qualified customers, making switching a hassle-free process.

Customers wanting price protection for a longer period can sign up for Commerce Energy’s Sure Choice Plus All-In Rate of 15.0¢/kWh, which gives customers the peace of mind of a fixed price for 24 months.

Each of those products is available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area too, for customers of Oncor Electric Delivery, at slightly different prices.

For the DFW area, Cirro Energy’s Smart Pass 12 product, which gives customers a fixed price of 13.2¢/kWh for a year, is SaveOnEnergy.com’s top pick.

Gexa Energy’s Guaranteed Plan with its airline miles bonus is 13.8¢/kWh for 12 months in Dallas. Gexa also offers a 100% pollution-free wind product that includes all the airline mile benefits for just a bit more money, 14.2¢/kWh. The price is locked-in for one year.

Dallas customers wanting additional price protection can sign up for a two-year deal from Commerce Energy at 13.7¢/kWh.

SaveOnEnergy.com offers customers in the Corpus Christi, Abilene, and Texas New Mexico Power areas the chance to enroll in the price protection products as well.

One of the best deals statewide may be Commerce Energy’s Sure Choice Plus All-In Rate that’s fixed for two years at only 11.1¢/kWh for customers of utility AEP Texas North, including customers in the Abilene area. If you live in that region and have never chosen an energy supplier, you could be paying more than $50 too much every month by not shopping, if you’re still paying the old rate of 16.6¢/kWh.

Gexa Energy’s Guaranteed Plan, with its initial 2,000 airline bonus miles, costs only 11.9¢/kWh for customers in the Texas New Mexico Power area, a great value considering customers who have never picked a supplier could be paying over 14¢/kWh without getting any special bonuses.

But since everyone likes something different, your best bet is to check out SaveOnEnergy.com’s complete list of offerings for your service area, so you can choose what features are most important to you: lowest price, renewable power, bonuses such as airline miles or bill rebates, alternate payment methods, and so on. It’s easy to do, all you have to do is select your utility area, and you’re ready to start saving money every month on your electric bill.