In some parts of the world, ‘Texas’ has become code for ‘crazy’ but that doesn’t have anything to do with the downright insane decision one utility company has made in the Lone Star State. In Dallas, thousands of customers of TXU Energy now pay absolutely nothing for electricity they use between the hours of 9pm and 6am. This move, coupled with slightly higher daytime rates, was inspired by the surplus of energy created by wind turbines in the state. The Texas winds blow most strongly at night, producing insanely cheap electricity due to the abundance and federal tax credits. It’s so cheap, in fact, that the utility opted to give it away for free.
Everything is bigger in Texas, they say, including the wind power. Wind accounts for 10 percent of the state’s energy generation, a larger proportion than any other state. Texas also has its own electricity grid that isn’t connected with other states, a unique scenario which means that the energy generated in Texas must also be consumed in Texas. The TXU Energy commercial above encourages customers to take full advantage of the free hours by using as much electricity as they need or can. A number of TV and radio spots touting the benefits of the free overnight plan have aired for months, in concert with aggressive social media campaigns, to help boost nighttime energy usage.
Ironically, giving away electricity at no cost actually saves the utility company money in the long-run. An oversupply of wind-generated energy taxes the power grid, costing TXU Energy more in terms of maintenance and operating costs. Anecdotally, the plan translates into tons of Dallas residents waiting until after 9pm to do laundry, run the dishwasher, and crank the thermostat. Some people, according to the New York Times, are even unplugging appliances during the day to further reduce out-of-pocket energy costs, but the new “free” hours may encourage others to be wasteful with their electricity usage. Still, it’s a win-win situation for the utility company and its customers.
Similar experiments are taking place in various points around the globe, where utilities offer incentives to customers for reducing energy consumption, or allow consumers to earn rebates by using more energy in off-peak hours. TXU Energy, though, in true Texas fashion, has rolled out the most generous and aggressive option with their free overnight plan. NYT reports that no other major market has gone this far.
Images via TXU Energy