CLEVELAND - Consumers have been choosing their gas supplier for years, but Ohio's Electric Choice program is just catching on. It's supposed to drive down rates, but is it for you?
AEP Retail Energy, a division of American Electric Power, is sending flyers to Northeast Ohio residents advertising savings of 24 percent. The company typically serves Columbus, but now it can serve our area.
"You're seeing companies that historically operated in their own space. You do your thing. I'll do mine. We'll get along fine. Now they are competing right in each other's face," PUCO Chairman Todd A. Snitchler said.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the state legislature laid the groundwork for this competition 13 years ago.
"We had what I would call a lengthy transition," Snitcher said.
Now that electric competition has arrived, consumers we talked to seemed reluctant to make the switch.
"It's going to be companies you never heard of. Why should you trust them and believe them if you have no idea who they are to begin with?" asked Linda Castro.
I don't think I want to change. I like Ohio Edison," said Roberta Zadravec.
The question should be -- do you like the price you're paying? Look on the front of your bill for a box called "Price to Compare."
Then, multiply that price by the amount of power you use. There is a graph on your bill that shows your usage.
In my case, the switch would save me about 15 percent. That's below the advertised 24-percent savings.
My rate changes based on the going rate, and right now electric rates are at historic lows.
While this flyer is getting a lot of attention, look beyond it. The state has an Apples to Apples chart so you can see all your options.
If you don't want to choose, maybe your government will.
FirstEnergy Solutions often teams up with cities to offer six percent off the going rate. You'll need to do some homework, but the state says it will pay off.
"It will allow you as a consumer to make choices based on whatever supplier meets your needs," Snitchler said.
This choice is really about your budget needs. If you need your power restored, you'll still call your normal utility company like FirstEnergy. Your bill will still come from the same old power company. It's all a question of who do you want to generate your power and how much do you want to pay.
Behind the scenes, there is a lot of fighting going on between the utility companies. There's even a TV ad. Some of the issues involve this increased competition, but there are other things at stake as well.
Depending on which company you talk to -- you'll hear a different story.
So, I asked the Public Utilities Chairman what this all means for consumers? He said several cases are pending that could impact the price we all pay for electricity in the future.It's unclear which direction your bill is headed.
Will you make a switch?
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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