Consumers appear unaware. Pilot programs seen under-subscribed.
TWO REPORTS RELEASED SIMULTANEOUSLY IN WASHINGTON, D.C., appear to confirm the worst fears of parties to the utility restructuring debate (em that consumers are unaware of deregulation and very few have taken home any real benefits. On Sept. 4, Yankee Energy System Inc. and International Communications Research Inc. jointly released survey results showing that two out of three Americans are still unaware of utility deregulation.
The same day, the Electric Consumers Alliance released the results of the New Hampshire retail competition pilot program study. The survey found policymakers must address education and protection measures if consumers are ever to gain any benefits from retail energy competition.
Yankee Energy: Many Seem Skeptical
According to Branko Terzic, chair, president and CEO of Yankee Energy System, while public awareness of deregulation is low, it is growing. Terzic explained that the energy debate is missing a "cataclysmic event," like the breakup of AT&T, which rapidly spread consumer awareness of deregulation in the telephone industry.
Terzic said that in 1996, only 22.9 percent of Americans were aware of the changes under way in electric deregulation, while 33 percent were aware in 1997. Terzic pointed out that most of that increased awareness came from people in the Northeast (40.8 percent) and the West (41.6 percent) where the most deregulation activity has taken place.
The survey said most consumers wanted deregulation to lower rates and improve service. Terzic said, however, that many respondents seemed skeptical that lower rates will occur. "[And] I think they should be," he added.