Sunday, December 31, 2000

Key questions about electric choice




        Question: Why can't I choose immediately as I did with natural gas choice?

        Answer: It has taken more than 90 years for Ohio's electricity industry to develop its current structure, so changes won't happen quickly. During a five-year transition period to an open market, rates will be frozen while the Public Service Commission of Ohio determines the amount of investment costs that utilities can recover.

        Q: How will I be billed under power restructuring (or electric choice)?

        A: This is a question you need to ask a potential electrical supplier. The supplier has an option to:

        • Be part of a consolidated bill from your electric utility, with the supply line-item carefully identified.

        • Bill you separately — in which case you'd get a bill from the utility for delivery and a bill from your electrical supplier.

        • Provide you a consolidated bill, with the utility's delivery charges and its supply charges, with all portions identified. (All suppliers may not be able to provide this option.)

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        Q: Does this mean there will be new power lines in our neighborhoods and yards?

        A: No. Power will continue to flow through existing lines. Those lines will continue to be operated and maintained by your current electricity provider.

        Q: Whom will I call if I have a power failure?

        A: If you experience a failure or have questions about safety and reliability, you'll continue to call your current electric company, because it'll continue to own and maintain the wires that supply your home or business.

        Q: How easy will comparison shopping be?

        A: The Internet might offer you some help. For example, one Web site, UtiltyGuide.Com, provides comparison shopping by asking you for your ZIP code and how much you pay each month. It then gives you the suppliers in your area, whether they have special offers for people signing up and what kind of product they offer (whether they are “green power,” for example) — and can link you to a sign-up area.

        UtilityGuide plans to offer a comparison service in Ohio once competition starts. Other Web sites can be expected to do the same.

        Q: What's green power?

        A: Some people take into consideration how electricity is generated when picking a supplier. Power created through environmentally cleaner methods — such as solar energy or wind-powered turbines — is often called “green.”

        Q: Will low-income programs, such as HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program), still be offered?

        A: Yes, all through the Ohio Department of Development.

        Q: How can I learn more about restructuring?

        A: A public education campaign sponsored by the state and the utility industry has a Web site: www.ohioelectricchoice.com; or you can call 1-888-OEC-1314.

        You also can call the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio at (800) 686-PUCO, or visit its Web site, www.puc.state.oh. Or call the Ohio Consumers' Counsel at (877) 742-5622, or visit its Web site, www.state.oh.us/cons.

       



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