Your Utility and Energy or Electricity Company: What's the Difference? | NEC Co-op Energy Texas

If you have just moved to Texas, you might think of your “utility company” and “energy or electricity provider” as being one and the same. However, in states like Texas, where electricity is deregulated, there’s a significant difference between your energy supplier and distributor.

A quick background: For many years, utility companies were considered a one-stop-shop for generating energy, distributing it to consumers, and taking care of the billing and payments. Customers weren’t given the power to choose, and their utility largely depends on the area they’re living in.

Then in 2002 the Texas State Legislature deregulated the energy industry, hoping to provide consumers with lower electricity rates. However, if you are new in Texas, don’t be misled by low energy plans. A lot of retail energy providers advertise low rates, but a lot of consumers end up disappointed with large bill surprises due to hidden charges. See more about this topic here.

Utility Company

In a deregulated market, a utility company – also known as Transmission and Delivery Service Providers (TDSPs) or TDUs – is responsible for delivering electricity to your home, reading the meter, restoring power outages, and maintaining the lines and other electrical equipment.

If you are not sure about the utility company that supplies electricity to you, consult your bill. If you cannot find that information in your bill, get in touch with your retail electricity provider. It’s essential that you know who your utility provider is so you’ll know what company to get in touch with in the event of a power outage. They are an important player in the energy process – even if they are not the company that processes the billing – since they supply energy to your home and ensure that there is no interruption.

In Texas, there are six Transmission and Delivery Service Providers (TDSPs):

  • CenterPoint Energy
  • Oncor Electric Delivery
  • Texas-New Mexico Power
  • AEP Texas North
  • AEP Texas Central
  • Sharyland Utilities

Energy or Electricity Provider

An energy or electricity provider, also known as retail electricity providers (REPs), light companies, and power companies, are companies that sell or market electricity to consumers. The REPs purchase energy from the utility companies and resell them to residents and businesses. They give you the rates, plans, customer service, and bills. Residents in deregulated markets like Texas typically choose from many different providers.

Because of deregulation, Texas consumers have the power to choose the provider that is fit for their residence or business, and they can choose to switch to a different provider if their current one doesn’t meet their needs.

Check out this map showing the various states that offer electricity deregulation.

Whom should you call – your utility company or energy provider?

It largely depends on the kind of service you need.

Call your utility company if:

  • You have a problem with your meter
  • You’re experiencing a power outage
  • You want to report a gas leak, a downed power line, or other emergencies

Call your energy or electricity provider if:

  • You want to be serviced in a new address
  • You want to change or cancel your plan
  • You have a payment and/or billing concern

NEC Co-op Energy, your electricity company in Texas, hopes that this quick guide will help you navigate the deregulated energy market, and alleviate the confusion about the difference between the energy supplier and distributors in the state.


“The History of Electric Deregulation in Texas,”,
“Transmission and Distribution Rates for Investor Owned Utilities,” Public Utility Commission of Texas,
“Map of Deregulated Energy States & Markets (Updated 2018),” Electric Choice,