One popular model in electric utility restructuring assumes a fully competitive merchant segment providing retail energy services. These "retail energy service companies," or RESCOs, would offer services described as heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, drive power, information, and communications.
The electric power industry lies in the midst of major change, including a shift to market-based wholesale prices. Market players and regulators will recognize that competition requires a shift in thinking on key issues such as resource planning before the market is developed enough to provide adequate price information.
We stand on the threshold of a new era in the electric services industry. I deliberately avoid the term "electric utility industry," because the future is not limited to the vertically integrated monopoly utility. Many utilities may already perceive the first cracks in their armor: nonutility generators (NUGs), self-generators, and energy service companies.
Competition is not in the industry's future; it is here now. Further, competition and market forces are not going to magically disappear.