Sunday, September 10, 2000

Ready, set . . . .PUCO chairman lays plans for electric deregulation

        Alan Schriber, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and a Wyoming resident, is the point man as Ohio moves to electric deregulation. It's a role Mr. Schriber, a former Miami University economist who served on the utilities commission in the 1980s, relishes.

        He talked recently with Enquirer reporter Mike Boyer about progress toward deregulation.

Alan Schriber
Alan Schriber
        Question: Thereares four months until Ohio's deregulation law takes effect Jan. 1 What remains to be done?

Answer: We've approved transition plans for First Energy Co. and Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. and by the end of next month will have approved plans for American Electric Power, DP&L (Dayton Power & Light) and Monongahela Power Co.

        Next month we should also begin the statewide consumer education campaign. The five-year, $33 million effort calls for spending $16 million in the first year on advertising, a call center and a Web site.

        At that point we're not going to say so much “get out and start choosing” as much as saying “choice is something you've got to start thinking about.”

        Probably in the first quarter we'll start hitting it pretty hard, but I doubt on Jan. 1 you'll have 10 different marketers knocking on your door. It will take a little time for people to get into the market.

        Q. Are you surprised more power companies haven't set up operations to be ready for Jan. 1?

A. No, because nobody has known what the rules will be to aggregate customers. We promulgated 107 rules that govern all this stuff. They just went through the Joint (Ohio House-Senate) Committee on Agency Rule Review in Columbus. It is early. I would expect a lot of activity between now and the end of the year, however.

        Municipalities, as well as independent power marketers, have to be certified by the commission, but the rules for municipalities are less stringent because the theory is they'll work through independent marketers.

        The independent marketers have to make a showing of managerial and financial competency, but I expect that will be completed by Jan. 1.

        Q. Where do you think most of the aggregation action will occur?

        A. I think most of the aggregation activity will be at the municipal level, either a city, a township or a county.

        I'd expect we'll have marketers trying to provide turnkey operations to municipalities. They'll go to the community and say: here's the legal stuff you've got to go through. You pass the ordinance and we'll provide the marketing for your referendum and we'll line you up with 10 marketers from which you can chose.

        I don't have a sense of how big aggregation will be, but I really think it's the real key to residential savings.

        Q. Will Cincinnati be a market for market aggregators?

A. Cincinnati will definitely be a market, but it won't be a prime market, only because First Energy Corp., which serves, Toledo, Cleveland and Akron, has higher prices.

        That's going to be where everybody will head first, but they'll work their way into Cincinnati eventually.

        Q. What can consumers expect to save through aggregation?

        A. I don't know. That really hinges on the market. In Cincinnati there's a 5 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 20 percent of residential customers who switch. If that isn't sufficient to encourage the 20 percent to switch by midway through the transition period, then the commission will have to take another look at the situation.

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- Ready, set . . . .PUCO chairman lays plans for electric deregulation

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