Local residents wanting to lower their electric bills have an ally in Prosper Waco, which has launched a program called Waco Power Switch that will solicit bids from power providers.

Prosper Waco has started recruiting for what it calls “group energy switching,” in which residents, regardless of income levels, agree to join in pursuing lower electric rates.

“Providers participate in an auction to offer their lowest rate, and Waco customers can then choose to accept the winning rate if it saves them money,” according to a Prosper Waco press release. “If residents choose to accept the winning electricity offer, Waco Power Switch will help with the transitioning of electricity providers.”

There is no obligation for individuals to accept the winning bid and switch providers.

An independent service provider called iChoosr will oversee the selection process and receive a fee from the winning provider. It was founded in Europe and is expanding into the United States and establishing an office in Austin, company vice president Filip Vissers said.

The company conducted a pilot program in the small community of Fate in Rockwall County, Vissers said.

About half the population registered to participate, “and 34 percent actually switched. That’s one in three households, which is quite high,” he said.

Fate residents saved an average of $336 per year compared to the market average, according to the press release.

Waco City Councilman John Kinnaird, a volunteer with Prosper Waco, said he became intrigued with iChoosr during a presentation last year at the Texas Municipal League conference.

“One of the objectives of Prosper Waco is wealth creation and financial security,” Kinnaird said. “If we can help lower electric bills, that means money going straight to the pocket instead of the utility company. … If we could get just 5 percent of the households in Waco to sign up, that would be great start.

“If each household experienced a savings of $200 a year, that’s a total of half-a-million dollars to spend.”

For now, Waco Power Switch will include only residential customers, not business or nonprofit entities, Prosper Waco spokeswoman Christina Helmick said.

Mayor Kyle Deaver said it is well documented that many people do not shop for the cheapest rates offered by electric providers, though dozens of options are available in Texas’ deregulated market.

“I encourage everybody to sign up and give this a try. There is no risk in doing so,” Deaver said. “I know John Kinnaird has done a great deal of work to bring this to the attention of Prosper Waco. He has vetted what I believe is a great program, one that could save people a lot of money.”

Helmick said registration started Aug. 14 and will continue through Sept. 27 at www.prosperwaco.org. The winning bid should be known by Oct. 9.

“Those who do not have access to a computer are welcome to give us a call, and we will help them through the process,” Helmick said.

The more people who participate, the lower the energy rate is likely to be, she said. There is no minimum number of people who have to register, and there is no income restriction.

Almost all residential customers in the Waco area are eligible, but households served by utility cooperatives Brazos Electric Power, Heart of Texas Electric, Navasota Valley Electric and HILCO Electric are not eligible to participate, according to the press release.

Electric service nationwide cost an average of 12.55 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2016, while Texas’ average is 11.02 cents per kWh, according to Energy Information Administration data provided by Brittany Fitz-Chapman, Mission Waco’s director of data and research.

Still, Texas has higher rates than its neighbors of Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, whose rates are 9.11 cents, 9.90 cents and 10.7 cents per kWh, respectively, according to the information.

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