After reading the September issue, I was struck by the impression that “Customer choice” would resolve distribution reliability issues (“Outages prompt lawsuits …”, page 1, and “When choice honeymoon ends, service quality sparks long-term customer relationship,” page 31). Customer choice does not change the physical facilities. In other words, the wires and substations delivering energy to end-use customers will not change as a result of customer choice.
The likelihood that funding will be increased to correct the bad maintenance of a distribution system-e.g. rate increase for distribution services-is unlikely in light of the underlying push to reduce rates as a result of customer choice. Therefore, customer choice does not necessarily change the physical operations and reliability of a distribution system. It does impact whether end-use customers will have retail relationships with a home utility, but not to whom they are physically attached.
Another way of thinking about this is that the customer who does not like the local cable company can get a satellite dish and totally disassociate with the cable company. An electric customer does not currently have the option to disconnect from the distribution company (separate from the retail company).