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    Earlier this month, the parent company of Ohio's largest utility company announced plans to acquire a retail electricity provider, illustrating the movement in the state toward greater competition.

    American Electric Power, the parent of AEP-Ohio and through it Columbus Southern Power Company and Ohio Power Company, purchased Chicago-based BlueStar Energy Solutions.

    The Columbus Dispatch reports that AEP has proposed moving to entirely competitive electricity rates by 2015, which represents a major shift from recent years.

    While Ohio implemented electricity deregulation more than a decade ago, the state was cautious and allowed several utility companies to continue operating in traditional markets to ease the transition.

    AEP has been the biggest beneficiary of this policy, with CSPC and OPC seeing only 2.75 percent and 0.59 percent of their customers switch electricity providers, respectively, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

    The acquisition of BlueStar, however, represents a clear indication that the company is preparing to begin a shift toward open markets. With 21,000 customers throughout the Midwest, the company nearly matches the 24,000 residents and businesses in AEP's service area that have moved to a retail electricity provider.