Independent electric marketer Wheeled Electric Power Co. (WEP) has filed a petition at the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), alleging that anticompetitive practices by Central Illinois Light Co. (CIL) and CIL subsidiary QST Energy have undermined CIL's Power Quest retail competition pilot.
WEP asked the ICC to 1) initiate a new pilot in CIL's service territory (em involving an additional 5,000 customers in new locations (em 2) compel CIL to provide the information needed to implement full-scale retail competition, and 3) exclude QST Energy from the new program entirely, or for the first 120 days to ensure that consumers are able to choose suppliers fairly.
According to WEP's Illinois marketing director, Gordon Pozza, QST Energy improperly identified itself as CIL's sister company, and claimed that only QST would provide the same "reliable" service as CIL, because CIL still would service power lines and read meters. WEP believes such statements are improper because CIL will provide those services for all customers participating in the pilot program. In addition, QST uses a logo almost identical to that of the pilot program, creating the impression that QST somehow has official status in Power Quest.
WEP president John O'Brien says that QST also opened offices in each of three pilot program locations before the sites were made public: "The only party that gained in any manner from this rigged pilot is CIL."
CIL spokesman Greg Woith says that the allegations will distract CIL's efforts to bring full competition to Illinois energy markets by January 1, 1998, and that the ultimate solution is to open up markets to full competition now.
[Editor's Note: Some 8,000 residents who buy natural gas from CIL now have the option of buying gas from another supplier. The expansion of the Power Quest program brings the number of eligible customers to 10,000. The program started July 23. CIL estimates consumers can save about $30 a year by switching suppliers. Selected customers have been able to choose their electric supplier since May; savings in that market run 10 to 15 percent.]
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