Finally, Protection for All Consumers!

Aug. 6, 1999

Finally, Protection for All Consumers!

Community Choice for Electricity Promises Savings

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Communities will have an opportunity to lower their electricity rates and protect the environment under landmark legislation introduced last night by Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and six colleagues. Community Choice legislation will enable citizens in towns, cities and counties to form a “public aggregator,” which can purchase electricity on behalf of all consumers and businesses within a municipality?s jurisdiction.

The Community Choice option is needed because almost no competition exists for residential and small business consumers in those states that have passed electricity deregulation legislation. Consumers have much more buying power together than they do separately. Communities also can choose to purchase renewable energy or energy efficiency services. By creating a large buying group, consumers become empowered through their local government to negotiate contracts protecting their pocketbooks and the environment.

“Community choice is about individuals and their right to obtain the best price for an essential service such as electricity?” said Brown, who is a member of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee. “Low-income people, the elderly on fixed-incomes, small businesses, and families deserve to obtain the same market power as does large industry. With deregulation already under way in some states, we need to make sure individual and small consumers benefit from utility competition.”

“The incumbent utilities are making out like bandits by keeping their residential customers captive, because no real competition has developed for small users of electricity. Community Choice is the great equalizer,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy Project.

“Community Choice gives local communities the ability to make decisions to not only lower their electric bills, but to purchase energy efficiency services or renewable energy options,” said Rep. Karen McCarthy of Missouri, another sponsor of the bill and a member of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

Massachusetts adopted Community Choice legislation in 1997. To date, more than 50 communities throughout Massachusetts are actively pursuing Community Choice. Similar legislation became law recently with bipartisan support in Ohio.

“As deregulation opens the door for dramatic changes in energy markets, legislation such as this is critical to ensure that the average citizen has a strong voice in advocating for clean and cheap energy,” said Rep. William Delahunt of Massachusetts.

“At present, large industrial and business consumers are winning the best deals, and few choices are yet available to residential customers,” said Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. “Deregulation must bring benefits to average Americans, or why bother?”

“What I like about this bill is that consumers can take matters into their own hands rather than wait for however long it may take for true competition to emerge in the electricity market,” said Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts.

Also co-sponsoring the legislation are Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Stephanie Tubbs Jones, both of Ohio.

The Community Choice legislation, HR 2734, makes aggregation completely voluntary, because consumers who do not want to participate can choose to opt out of their Community Choice program. The opt-out provision enables the city or town to form the aggregating unit without spending a great deal of money on expensive advertising campaigns to sign up each customer. Community Choice gives the municipalities significant purchasing power, enabling them to negotiate the best electricity rates for their residents and businesses.

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