A state-by-state look at retail competition.
Lori M. Rodgers is an associate editor with Public Utilities Fortnightly.
Rhode Island's customer choice program for large-industrial and government consumers is five months old. California consumers will see retail choice on Jan. 1. New York, Illinois, Idaho and Washington have pilot programs well under way. And a statewide pilot program was set to begin this month in Pennsylvania.
Yet retail choice may prove vulnerable in New Hampshire — the one state that has shown the greatest commitment to retail choice. The dogged determination by regulators not to surrender all the consumer benefits to a rescue package has tied up the issue. It was in New Hampshire that state regulators opposed any automatic full recovery of utility transition costs, only to see their decision taken up on appeal to the courts, where it may lie "stranded" for some time.
Here, at some risk (the story changes daily), is a quick breakdown of how a good many of the states stack up on retail choice.
Mandates Set, Deadlines Looming
One group of states appears noticeably ahead of the rest, with fixed, mandatory deadlines for full competition, forged through joint action by utility regulators, the state legislature and the governor.
California. The Public Utilities Commission continues to march toward its Jan. 1 deadline. It has ordered utilities to give consumers unbundled bills (generation, transmission and distribution) by June 1998 and approved rate reduction bonds for the three biggest utilities. %n1%n In July, the PUC began accepting registration for electric service providers; more than 100 ESPs had paid the $100 fee as of September. %n2%n