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Off Peak

Fortnightly Magazine - June 1 1997

Can utilities learn to deliver?

Selling electricity is not like selling a pair of sneakers. Electricity is a product consumers can neither see, feel nor smell. Try it on? Go for a test drive? Not hardly. So how does an electric utility make its product appealing to consumers?

Some say it all comes down to price. A penny saved is a penny earned. But what about tenths of a penny? Do consumers know or even care what they pay for a kilowatt-hour? Just keeping the lights on seems enough for most.

Anticipating the opening of the retail electricity market, MidAmerican Energy Co. is running three, 30-second commercials in its service territory. One point that sets these commercials apart from others is that the company presents the product using price. MidAmerican has structured the commercials to compare electricity with everyday items, i.e., jeans, braces and pizza (see below).

We'll take ours with sausage and reliability. Hold the anchovies.

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