By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Feb. 8, 2001 — More than 550,000 Pennsylvania residents are being served by an alternative electricity supplier, under the state’s retail deregulation initiative, said Glen Thomas, chairman of the state public utility commission.
That includes 120,000 Pennsylvanians who are being served by a “green” power supplier, more than any other state, Thomas told members of the Pennsylvania state Senate Appropriations Committee. He said up to 1 million residents have shopped for power since competition was first introduced.
Thanks to the state decision to permit residents to select an electricity supplier, Thomas said consumers have saved more than $4 billion. Pennsylvania launched its electric choice program in 1999.
With respect to natural gas, he reported 12% of Pennsylvanians are shopping for gas, including nearly 260,000 in the Pittsburgh region, up 20,000 between July 2001 and January 2002.
Thomas said the transition to fully competitive markets requires improving existing power infrastructure, promoting demand response programs to help consumers manage their electric use, and speeding up maturation of the wholesale power markets.
Demand response programs are intended to encourage off-peak electricity use allowing consumers to save money. The program also give utilities more control over the peaks and valleys of their loads. The PUC has approved a pilot program that will allow utilities to raise the thermostat on commercial, industrial, and residential consumers’ central air-conditioning systems up to 4° F. to curb usage on hot summer days.
Thomas also said the commission has assigned 20 people to participate in a review of the security of the state’s infrastructure, including gas and power. HR 361 required the commission, in conjunction with other state agencies, to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the commonwealth’s infrastructure security following Sept. 11’s terrorist attacks and fears others could be in the offing.