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Electricity deregulation has been a long process in Ohio, beginning before the start of the last decade and progressing slowly under a variety of market restrictions. With the pending approval of a new electricity security plan, CentralOhio.com's Seth Roy reports that more consumers are choosing to switch electricity providers and the competitive market is slowly beginning to take shape.
Different utilities across Ohio have seen differing portions of their customers given access to alternate electricity providers as time progresses. Electricity in Ohio is largely run through a few utility companies, with the largest portion of the state supplied by American Electric Power.
Because of its huge size, Ohio has only opened AEP up to competition slowly, worried about causing disruptions in service. Under the latest proposal, however, by next year 21 percent of AEP's capacity will be opened up to third-party electricity providers, with that number increasing steadily by 10 percent each year until it opens up completely in 2015.
With the improving access to more electricity providers, Ohio residents have increasingly begun to shop around for lower electricity rates. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio reports that some utilities have seen almost no customer switch electricity suppliers, with Ohio Power Company, The Day Power and Light Company and Columbus Southern Power Company all seeing less than one percent of their residential customers and 3 percent of their total customers changing provider. However, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison Company have seen 74.74 percent and 72.44 percent of their residential customers make the change.
"We're starting to see the prices on the electric side get to the point where (the companies) can come in with other options," Anthony Rodriguez, spokesman for the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, told Roy. "What we have now is some options available for customers to look at having some savings."
However, Rodriguez noted that consumers needed to carefully consider their options when deciding on an electricity provider. He noted that the utility would be the same, and most of the customer's interaction remain the same, with the only real change being a line on the bill and the rate. But customers must consider whether the contract fits their needs, whether there is a fee to sign up or to switch back the utility, as well as whether the process for renewing the contract.