New Power Providers Win Converts


California's new competitive market for electricity continued to win a thin but steady stream of converts during its second full month of operation.

More than 24,000 residential and business electricity users switched to new service providers during May, according to statistics filed with the state Public Utilities Commission and released Wednesday. In April, the first full month of the new market, slightly more than 36,000 homes and businesses changed providers, representing a significant increase over any previous month.

Customers were allowed to ask to be switched beginning Nov. 1 in anticipation of a Jan. 1 start for the new market, but the restructuring was delayed three months.

In all, nearly 122,000 electricity users have chosen new providers. But the number of those switching is still a tiny fraction of the nearly 10 million customers who are now able to buy electricity from any registered provider, rather than just the investor-owned utilities that had the market to themselves until March 31, when California inaugurated the most sweeping restructuring yet of the electricity industry.

Southern California Edison reported that 13,150 of its users switched to a new electricity provider during May, Pacific Gas & Electric reported 6,671 switch-overs, and San Diego Gas & Electric reported 4,534. SDG&E; noted that 126 customers, most of them residential, asked to return to the utility during the month; PG&E; had 87 returnees, nearly equally split between residential and commercial customers; and Edison reported that three customers, all residential, returned to the utility.

Meanwhile, one of those new electricity providers, PG&E; Energy Services, announced a $300-million, multiyear contract to supply electricity and energy services to Lucky supermarkets and Sav-On drugstores in California.

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