Understanding Your First Choice Power Bill Terms | The Light Lab

Understanding Your First Choice Power Bill Terms

While few people have ever read the iTunes User Agreement from start to finish, many of us regularly scour through our electricity bill each month with the finest of fine-toothed combs. We certainly don’t blame you — no one wants to get charged for something they didn’t use. And this goes double for fees you don’t understand because you don’t know the jargon.

We want to help you become familiar with the rates, fees, and charges that appear on the average First Choice Power bill. To start, we recommend you visit our Understanding My Bill FAQ section. You should also review the How Do I Read My First Choice Power Electricity Bill page for images of sample bills and explanations of what you’ll find in each section.

Let’s start by defining the companies that help provide you with electric service:

  • Retail Electricity Provider (REP): REPs are companies who sell electric plans, provide bills and manage accounts for Texas customers who sign up for electricity service. First Choice Power is a REP.
  • Transmission and Distribution Service Provider (TDSP): Also referred to as Transmission and Distribution Utilities (TDUs), TDSPs maintain the power lines and other equipment that helps electricity get to your home. They also read your meter and address power outages in their service area. Your TDSP will depend on where you live.

Understanding Your First Choice Power Bill Terms | The Light Lab

Common Terms You’ll Find On Your Electricity Bill

  1. Kilowatt-hours (kWh): This is a measurement of energy equal to one kilowatt (kW) of power for a one-hour duration. This is the measure of electricity usage that REPs employ to determine how much electricity you used in a billing cycle so that you can be charged for that usage.
  2. Base charge: This fee primarily covers the operational costs of providing you with service.
  3. Recurring Charges: These are the charges that you will see on every bill you receive from First Choice Power, and they are typically the TDU Fees assessed by the utility company for your area. For more information, please read the section below labeled TDU Fees.
  4. Non-Recurring Charges: These are charges you will see on a one-time or intermittent basis, depending upon the situation. Examples include late fees, returned check fees, disconnection fees, reconnection fees, or any other fees disclosed in First Choice Power’s Terms of Service contract.
  5. Total Current Charges: This amount includes the balance from current bill, balance(s) from preceding bill(s), payment(s) made since the preceding bill and total amount due.
  6. Late Payment Penalty: This is a one-time penalty of not more than 5% of the past-due balance that may be charged on a delinquent bill. Outstanding delinquent balances cannot be re-penalized.
  7. Local Sales Tax: This is the sales tax that is collected by your city.
  8. Gross Receipts Tax (GRT): The GRT is a tax assessed by the State of Texas on retail sellers of electricity. The GRT is imposed on Retail Electricity Providers (REPs; i.e., companies like First Choice Power) selling electricity to all customers living in incorporated cities or towns with populations greater than 1,000. This tax reimbursement is applicable regardless of customer tax status.
  9. Electric Service Identifier (ESIID): This is the unique number given to your service address by ERCOT. First Choice Power uses this number to ensure that you receive the correct service.
  10. Meter Number: This is the serial number of the meter recording your kilowatt-hour usage.
  11. Multiplier (Multi): This is the number your meter is multiplied by to get the correct amount of usage.
  12. Current Read: This is the meter reading describing usage in the number of kilowatt-hours used at the end of the billing cycle.
  13. Previous Read: This is the meter reading describing usage in the number of kilowatt-hours at the start of the billing cycle.
  14. Bill Period: This describes the length of your most recent billing cycle as a number of days in that cycle. Your bill period typically ranges from 28 to 31 days, depending on work schedule of the utility company for your area.
  15. Usage: This describes the amount of electricity you used in a billing cycle, as measured in kilowatt-hours. It is calculated as “Current Reading – Previous reading = Usage.”

Understanding Your First Choice Power Bill Terms | The Light Lab

What Are TDU Fees?

That may seem like a lot of information, but most of those terms and fees are familiar to longstanding electricity customers. However, when you start looking into the Transmission and Distribution Utility (TDU) fees, it’s easy to get confused, mostly because not all the REPs assess these fees in the same way to their customers.

Basically, the TDU fees consist of the various charges assessed by your local Transmission and Distribution Service Provider to transmit and deliver your electricity to your service address. The five TDSPs for the deregulated parts of the Texas energy grid are Oncor, CenterPoint, Texas-New Mexico Power, AEP North, and AEP Central.

Some REPs bundle the TDU fees into the rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) you are charged for your usage. Other companies may list (or unbundle) the TDU fees separately from the rate per kWh you are charged by the REP.

You can also visit the What is Included in the TDU Delivery Charges section of the FAQ for a more detailed explanation of the TDU Fees on your bill. For a full list of fees and definitions, you can visit these sites:

In short, the TDU fees are determined and assessed by the TDSP for your area, and First Choice Power passes them through to you without markup. You can check the Electricity Facts Label (EFL) for your plan (or the plan that most interests you) to view the rate/fee breakdown between First Choice Power and your TDSP/utility company in more detail.

  1. The EFL provides you with pricing for your energy usage per kilowatt-hour (kWh), contract, charge breakdown between First Choice Power and your TDSP, product descriptions, fee information, and emissions information regarding your electricity service.
  2. Your EFL will be provided to you by First Choice Power with your Welcome Packet along with your Terms of Service Agreement.
  3. You can also view the active EFL for any currently available plan within the plan details on our website.

For more information or to speak with a customer service representative for assistance, you may:

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Josh Crank is a freelance writer with a background in legal journalism, travel writing and marketing. He's found his perfect fit in writing about home maintenance and repairs, energy efficiency, smart home technology and other topics to help readers make home life green and comfortable. Josh lives with his wife, two sons and endlessly howling beagle-basset hound mix in New Orleans.