Texas Utilities Offering Free Electricity At Night, Even For EVs

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[Update] This is an important comment from reader JimBouton:

I was actually on this plan for about a year. It would be generous to say that it was a rip off. TXU misleads you by not including the TDU (transmission and other fees in their rate.) They are one of the only electric companies in Texas that pulls this scam.

It works out that their rate for “day time” clocks in around 24 cents per kwh when you include all of the fees. In Texas, you can generally get a year contract (with TDU) at around 8 to 11 cents per kwh. It is more than double, especially considering the monthly fee they charge ($9.95.) And, their cancellation fee is $290, regardless of when you cancel.

I thought this would be a great plan for me with my solar panels. The problem in Texas is that our early evenings are so hot. My panels would not provide enough electricity from the 5 pm to 9 pm hours, and you are paying more than double for that electricity.

I am now with Green Mountain. They offer 11 cent per kwh (includes the TDU), no monthly fee, no cancellation charge. Plus, they match my solar generation at the same price they charge me. Plus, 100% wind energy.

Originally published on EV Obsession.

Owing to the nighttime overproduction of electricity via wind energy infrastructure in Texas, a fair number of utility companies in the Lone Star State have begun offering access to free electricity at night — mostly between the hours of 9 pm and 6 am — according to recent reports.

For some further explanation here, it’s worth remembering that Texas has its own electric grid, so production there is essentially only used there… or not — hence the offer of free time nighttime use. It should also be remembered that the use of free nighttime electricity access to users can thereby allow some grid burdens to be reduced.

wind turbines texas

Though this news may come as a surprise to some, Texas is, after all, actually the biggest wind energy generator in the US — nearly 10% of its current electricity generation is via wind energy projects. So nighttime generation levels are fairly high just with wind energy alone, regardless of other generating infrastructure that may be active.

There are further details available in the New York Times‘ coverage, for those interested.

As noted by “mspohr” on the Tesla Motors Club forum, this development could be a sign of things to come in other states/regions with substantial wind electricity generation infrastructure.

As also noted in that conversation, such a situation could probably work out quite well for those with an energy storage system and a grid connection — simply allowing such owners to charge their systems at night when electricity is free, and thereby avoid most electricity costs altogether.

That conversation turned into a bit of an argument on the merits of using energy storage systems (such as Tesla’s Powerwall) in places that get as hot as central Texas does — with some arguing that Tesla’s system isn’t well suited to the region, and others stating that it’s a simple fix, just locate the system in a climate controlled space, or in a basement (in parts of West Texas this may be more of an option than in the more flood-prone regions).

Interesting topic. Anybody in Texas care to comment? Anybody making use of the offer, and happy to be able to charge their electric vehicle for free at night?

Image by Chrishna (some rights reserved)

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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55 thoughts on “Texas Utilities Offering Free Electricity At Night, Even For EVs

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    • “Too cheap to meter”. Now that is a great point. With my long-standing bad attitude toward nuclear promises, the irony is just too sweet.

  • Not sure if high temperatures for a Powerwall will be a huge problem in Texas.

    The Tesla Powerwall’s operating temperature is from -20 to 43 degrees celcius. There may be some wriggle room in there, perhaps with reduced performance, but 45 degrees is likely to be a limit for charging to prevent deterioration of the battery cells. However, it may be able to discharge at a higher temperature without harm.

    So even in very hot conditions the Powerwall may be able to charge up from rooftop solar in the morning before the temperature gets too hot, or potentially overnight from the grid, and still be able to discharge the energy it has stored.

    Even here in Australia the upper temperature limit should rarely be a problem for outside installations, provided no one makes the mistake of placing them in the sun.

    But if they do stop working on particularly hot days, since they are designed for outside installation it means they can handle rain and so I would suggest throwing some wet fabric on them to allow evaporation to cool them off. While less effective in a humid swamp, it works well here. And if one doesn’t have much in the way of water supplies, one can always piss on it, which is something we need to do on occasion here in Australian as the result of some German engineer foolishly assuming that their product will never be used in 45 degree temperatures.

    And if having to wet down or pee on your Powerwall sounds too inconvenient, it’s still less inconvenient than using lead-acid batteries. Of course, locating the Powerwall somewhere it just won’t get that hot may be the easiest solution.

    Warning: Do not wet down or urinate on your Powerwall or any other electrical equipment. It may result in death or injury or damage to the equipment. The person who wrote the above comment is not to be trusted and so looney he excretes green cheese.

    • “…pee on your Powerwall…” Ah, Australians – you gotta love ’em.

  • And when PV takes off in Texas, they seem a little late to that party, will the electricity be free from 9 am to 3 pm also?

    • Yep, and excess battery storage will make it free from 3 PM to 11 PM but you’re gonna get slammed between 11 and 12 😉

  • Texas currently has over 6300 MW of wind power under construction. Will it finally be time for ERCOT to sell that “free” electricity to other states?

  • TXU has been offering free nights and free weekends plans for some time. The daytime rate is about twice what one would pay under a flat rate plan. There’s a contractual period, and a huge fee for cancelling it.


    Also, there might be extra costs if usage falls below a certain level.

    It might be a good deal if one can shift a lot of one’s usage to the free period, like pool pumps and recharging EVs, but one’s actual usage must be carefully considered. I would wager that these plans cost most people more money.

    • “…if one can shift…” Living here in California, all your hypotheticals for shifting loads are my TOU rate reality. You might be surprised to learn that the shift is really quite easy and painless. Both my pool pump and EV are on timers that charge automatically after midnite and even my dishwasher has a delay timer to run after we are all asleep. I was able to drop an annual $3600 electric bill down to $69 after installing solar and switching to TOU with almost no effort. I suggest you not make that wager.

      • That’s fantastic, but I’m not sure the TXU deal is the same as you are getting. The motivations of the companies are different, I think. We have a deregulated electricity market here with a lot of companies competing for customers. I may be wrong, but I presume CA still has a regulated monopoly market. If so, your provider may wish to incentivize shifts in TOU to cut down on demand whereas TXU wishes to increase its customer base and may have crafted plans which only appear to be generous. I suspect there may be things in the fine print in the TXU offerings that render them not truly as generous as the one you have. I admit I’m prejudiced against TXU. When it was a monopoly, they did some outrageous things (like buying Picassos to decorate their offices) and building more coal plants in areas where the air was already terrible.

        • Yep – good call. The key difference seems to be that TXU does not offer net metering. They give you “free” ( except for the extra charges) power at night and you give them free solar power during the day. Awesome deal – for them.

      • “I was able to drop an annual $3600 electric bill down to $69”

        Fantastic. About how long will the payback period be on your solar installation? Did you do any of the installation yourself? Thanks!

        It’s the soft costs (labor, permits, etc.) that make solar expensive in Texas.

        • I will answer your question but you have to listen to my rant first. I firmly believe asking for the payback period on solar is the wrong question. It somehow suggests that you must wait for that period of time, after which electricity is free. The problem is that this way of looking at the investment makes it very difficult to compare to other investments. Nobody asks what the payback will be on your mutual fund or savings account. The return on a solar investment begins the very first month you don’t pay an electric bill and it is tax free. The manufacturer (REC Solar) estimated my annual return at 13.5% and it actually came in at 14%. Recent utility rate hikes have pushed the ROI to 18%. Depreciation on the system will be covered by the Federal tax credit I received for many years and a 25 year warranty means the risk is lower than any investment fund I ever owned. The only real issue is liquidity; the panels add good value to the house when you sell but if you need to liquidate the investment, there is always the home equity loan. Now to answer your question – about 5 years.

          • Thanks for that rant. I learned something.

            Everybody and his dog will have solar panels when they can get their money back in 5 years. It’s double that here in Texas unless one can do his own installation.

          • A 10-year payback is an almost risk-free, recession-proof, tax-free 10% annual ROI. What investor wouldn’t jump at an opportunity like that?

          • My guess is that since many people only live in a house for six years or so, they are afraid they won’t get their investment back when they sell it. Also, they can’t calculate the ROI.

          • It doesn’t take much research to find out that solar adds great value to your house when it’s time to sell, especially if you own it, and especially here in California with great sunshine and high utility rates. As for not knowing how to calculate ROI, you must be right or most of the homes here would have solar instead of only about 10%. That’s changing pretty fast though.

          • What are you paying for electricity? Here in N. Texas, it’s a little over 8 cents, taxes and fees included.

          • I have an EV TOU rate. In summer it is 10 cents/kWH midnite to 8 am, 20 cents 8am to 2 pm and 42 cents 2 pm to 9 pm. My utility is the one Enron drove to bankruptcy and our rates are due directly to that fiasco. Deregulation turned out to be a license to steal – who could have guessed? So unless you want to be one of the suckers required to pay off that gambling debt, solar is the way out for now. I expect to have to play the battery card in the future.

          • For years after deregulation in Texas, Texas had some of the highest electricity rates in the continental U.S., and everyone thought the same thing–that deregulation was huge rip-off. Then, a few years ago, rates plunged and now we have some of the lowest rates in the nation. No one seems to know why. Nonetheless, rates were high for so long that we still aren’t back to even.

          • So many people do not understand basic investing. A low risk 10 year ROI is unheard of in the rest of the financial world. (Unless you have access to some of the opportunities of the 1%.)

          • I have been discussing the investment aspects of solar in forums for years and based on the response I get, I have concluded that you are very correct. I would think that most people would be familiar with savings account interest and mortgage rates as an introduction, but apparently not. I guess that’s why 75% of people go with companies like Solar City- “free solar panels” and “lower electric rates” must have basic emotional appeal. One neighbor who went Solar City said she was really happy with her decision because she still had all her money in her savings account.

          • I don’t think most people get past the point of “Will I have any money left at the end of the month?” level of financial thinking.

            I sat down with an employee several years ago and showed her how were she to invest $100 a month and increase that by 3% a year she could end up with a very nice retirement fund when she reached 65, 40 years later.

            She said that she couldn’t afford $100 a month (which was likely the case).
            I pointed out that she could babysit three or four nights a month. She wasn’t interested in that either. The thought of a hundred thousand dollars on top of Social Security wasn’t enough of an enticement.

          • Yeah, the whole “monthly payment” view is hurting electric vehicle sales too. If you look at total cost of ownership a used Leaf just coming off lease is an incredible deal right now. The monthly payments are easily covered just with gasoline savings. Sadly, most people still don’t realize that electricity is a lot cheaper than gasoline, and car dealerships don’t seem to be spreading the word.

          • “The monthly payments are easily covered just with gasoline savings.”

            Right. It’s like getting a free car compared to buying a gas burner. Used Leafs should be flying off the lots.

            BTW, I too thought that electricity was cheaper than gasoline, but a young lady who knows a lot more physics than I do recently explained to me that the fuel savings actually are the result of the EVs being much more efficient than the gas burners. In other words, the EVs go a lot farther on the equivalent amount of energy so even though the electricity is more expensive per unit of energy, you use so much less of it that you still have huge fuel savings. I still tell people that “filling up” an EV is about $1 or less a gallon equivalent depending on what they pay for electricity. It’s easier to think of it that way.

          • Technically, I believe your friend is correct, depending on the cost of electricity and gasoline at any one moment. My wording was a bit of shorthand – I was saying that powering your vehicle with electricity is significantly cheaper per mile than fueling with gasoline.

          • I don’t understand why used Leafs aren’t selling quickly and for more than they are. An ideal car for many two car households. Basically a free car.

          • Those of us who read sites like this and who know the advantages of plug-in cars are a small minority, at least outside of the West coast. Most Americans don’t know their advantages, and the manufacturers aren’t spending any ad money to educate them. The dealerships aren’t actively selling them either. They make a lot of their money repairing gas burners. 90% of the salesmen know nothing about them and try to steer people who ask away from them. Right now, the only people buying them are those who have spent a lot of time educating themselves and who demand to see them at the dealerships.

            Those are my guesses.

          • “The manufacturer (REC Solar) estimated my annual return at 13.5% and it actually came in at 14%.”

            Would you mind giving me the ROI calculation based on your real world numbers? I would like to send it to someone.

          • I would love to comply but I really can’t. I needed to compare alternate investment opportunities – super insulation, new ductwork, higher efficiency propane furnace, high efficiency air/air heat pump and geothermal. Powering the various scenarios with PV using various rates and layered with the rate tier system meant using a spreadsheet that literally calculated the energy cost on s day by day basis, as the rates and solar generation changes hourly, based on day of the week and season. It’s one of the most complex spreadsheets I’ve ever created. The only way to begin to see the details is for me to give you that spreadsheet, and I prefer not do that. Although I have shared it with friends and family, I don’t know you and I don’t know the purpose to which you would put it. The spreadsheet would only work for California at best anyway. I will give you the simple approximate method though. Look at the total you spent on electricity last year and that is your maximum tax-free return. Divide it by the cost of the PV array necessary to offset that usage, taking into account any Federal and State rebates for which you are eligible and taking into account the net metering your State may or may not have. For here in Northern California, it took a 7.3 kW array to produce 11 MWh of power last year. My total usage was 15 MWh and that resulted in an annual bill of $69, not counting the fixed $10/month grid connection fee. Electric rates have gone up over 20% in the two years I’ve had the system, so my return is now significantly higher than 14%. Good luck.

          • Wow, that spreadsheet sounds like it could be the basis for a Master’s thesis. Impressive.

  • UK surface area – 243,610 km2

    Texas surface area – 696,241 km2

    UK capacity – 13GW – http://www.renewableuk.com/en/renewable-energy/wind-energy/uk-wind-energy-database/

    Texas capacity – 14 GW – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_the_United_States#Texas

    Does this mean that there is more consistent wind potential in Texas than in the UK? Does energy demand plummet at night in Texas?
    Can anyone explain how Texas utilities can do this yet the UK cannot?

    • The UK has more than twice the population that Texas does.
      Texas is chock full of coal power stations that find it difficult to reduce output during periods of low demand and high winds.
      Texas only appears to have about 456 megawatts of hydroelectric capacity and no pumped storage – consideably different from the UK.
      The UK share transmission capacity with the rest of Europe.
      And Texas wind farms do operate at a higher average capacity factor than the UK’s.
      Counter balancing this, I strongly suspect Texans use more electricity per capita than UKans.

      So, all up, I don’t find it terribly surprising that the UK doesn’t offer free charging at night. But one reason why we don’t offer such a thing to households in South Australia during periods when electricity prices go negative is that household electricity meters can’t do time of use tariffs as they are too simple. Only some very large users of electricity get this advantage. I don’t know if this is the case in the UK, but could be a factor.

      • The Possum Kingdom Lake (dam) in Texas apparently used to have 22 MW of generating capacity, but for some reason they don’t use that any more. Perhaps withdrawals increased so much water no longer flows out of the damn, or maybe the generators are haunted and they need the Scooby Gang to sort things out.

        • What wasn’t mention in the article, is peak shifting to load.

          ““TXU’s free overnight plan, which is coupled with slightly higher daytime rates, is one of dozens that have been offered by more than 50 retail electricity companies in Texas over the last three years with a simple goal: for customers to turn down the dials when wholesale prices are highest and turn them back up when prices are lowest.”

      • So lots of excess, plants that can’t be throttled and less punters. Seems reasonable. We don’t have TOU as such in the UK. Historically we have had single rate tariffs plus a rate called ‘Economy 7’ which gives you 7 hours late evening / early morning at a lower rate. It’s a hangover from when everyone had electric storage heaters before gas central heating became prevalent.

        TOU is on the cards – PDF http://www.smartenergygb.org/sites/default/files/UCL%20research%20into%20time%20of%20use%20tariffs.pdf – as a national fitting of smart meters is underway (in a half-arsed government implemented manner).

  • In the past I read that some of the “free” plans had some tricky details. I’m guessing thy are not letting Corps so this or there would be a run on batteries and night time super chillers (to move AC draw to night and batteries), thus dropping peak charges way down.

  • Electricity in Texas is too cheap to make the battery wall effective currently, even if you charge it for free.

    Also, there’s a lot of fine print in there – You still have to pay the transmission fees and such. Overall it’s not that great of a deal. That’s why more people aren’t using it.

    • Yep, if you don’t read the fine print in Texas, the thieves will steal you blind.

  • I was actually on this plan for about a year. It would be generous to say that it was a rip off. TXU misleads you by not including the TDU (transmission and other fees in their rate.) They are one of the only electric companies in Texas that pulls this scam.

    It works out that their rate for “day time” clocks in around 24 cents per kwh when you include all of the fees. In Texas, you can generally get a year contract (with TDU) at around 8 to 11 cents per kwh. It is more than double, especially considering the monthly fee they charge ($9.95.) And, their cancellation fee is $290, regardless of when you cancel.

    I thought this would be a great plan for me with my solar panels. The problem in Texas is that our early evenings are so hot. My panels would not provide enough electricity from the 5 pm to 9 pm hours, and you are paying more than double for that electricity.

    I am now with Green Mountain. They offer 11 cent per kwh (includes the TDU), no monthly fee, no cancellation charge. Plus, they match my solar generation at the same price they charge me. Plus, 100% wind energy.

    • @disqus_My2GGGW1nG:disqus — looks like your hunch was right.

      • If anything in Texas sounds like a bargain, it most likely is a rip-off. Texans consider that part of the “free-enterprise” system. The culture dictates that if you can rip off someone, they deserve it. The bigger the thief, the more highly regarded they are.

          • Actually, I think that’s part of the national ethos, but it is more overt here.

    • Btw, I’m going to stick this comment on the top of the article. Thanks!

    • We have had TOU here in Australia for quite a few years. Some people claimed the EMR (electromagnetic radiation) from the TOU meters caused health issues (conspiracy theorists?)… However I digress… I managed to get on a fixed FIT (feed in tariff until 2025) on the very last day it was available (Govt mandated rate). I get paid 66c/kWh for my exports, BUT… they charge me 35c from 7am to 11pm Mon-Fri. All other times are 15c. After installing solar by bills went from $1800 per year to $165 which includes a fixed line (ripoff) fee of $1 per day (which makes TXU’s $10 / month look like a bargain). My solar (only a 2 Kw system) not only wipes out ALL my power bill, but half of the fixed line fee as well. Unfortunately, the FIT has dropped from 66c to 6c now (for those people just installing solar) and it looks like it will be heading even lower soon. It is now so bad that most people are now better off NOT being on a FIT and give excess away for free because the ‘peak’ rate is just 25c instead of 35c. The benefits of battery storage have now become reality at least here in Australia. Shifting peak use (7am – 11pm) and dumping excess solar into lithium ion cells looks like it is going to be a no-brainer. With over 1.4 million homes now with solar panels the battery storage wars are about to start in earnest.

  • I did exactly what you suggest here in Northern California two years ago. Got a Waterfurnce 3 ton heat pump with three 250′ vertical wells. Total annual ROI was lowered a bit to about 8% (tax free) because I had to replace all my faulty duct work and reinsulate to 20″. 2500 sf house with electric hot water, pool pump and EV powered by 7.3 kW solar array. Horizontal drilling has great potential for lowering geothermal system costs in areas without subsoil rocks.

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