A study of 1000 likely voters commissioned by The Retail Energy Supply Association shows a strong majority of consumers prefer to see choice in electricity markets.
The study billed as a “national scientific poll” questioned 1,000 likely voters. They were asked about their preferences pertaining to consumer choice in several categories including electric company choice. 74% of the respondents said that they agreed that choice in the energy market is important. Only 17% disagreed while 9% said they didn’t know. The results echoed public attitudes on other consumer products such as internet plans and cell phone plans. In addition, 49% of respondents said that an electric infrastructure funded totally by investors is preferable. This is the model followed in the Texas electricity market. 35% of people said they prefer that infrastructure be funded entirely by consumers. 16% said they didn’t know.
Of the 50 states, only 14 have some level of electric choice for consumers. Texas is by far the largest market to allow homeowners and businesses a choice of electric companies.
Texas was once like most of the country in that electric consumers had to get their electricity from the regional utility monopoly. Deregulated electricity in Texas broke up these monopolies (at least on the retail side). Electric infrastructure such as power lines are still maintained by regional utility monopolies. The difference with the Texas model is that consumers have the ability to choose their own retail electricity provider (REPs). These REPs purchase electricity from power producers and resell the electricity to end users. In the process they smooth out the volatile prices found in the wholesale electricity market.
Retail electric choice in Texas has led to lower electricity rates as well as innovation in the electricity market. Retail choice puts the obligation on consumers to be vigilant to make sure they are on the cheapest electricity rate plan for their area. If a consumer is willing to do their homework, they can find rates that are substantially lower than those paid in areas where electric choice is not available.