Alabama - what's the deal? : LUSENET : Deregulation / Restructuring Discussion: - Energy Utilities in the 21st Century : One Thread

First of all, I would like to say that I think this website is a great concept. It seems to gather consumer oriented information and drop it in one location, giving average Joe's like me a good starting reference point for research. Best of luck to Rick and the folks running this site!

Second, being from Alabama, I've been interested as a customer of Southern Company in how the whole restructuring process is going in Alabama, and when I'm going to have a choice in both electric and gas service. I use both in my house, but my small store is all electric. Seems that Alabama state govt doesn't seem to be too agressive in pursuing competition like some other states.

Does anyone have a line on what's happening in Alabama? I think that having the ability to choose my suppliers could only be good for me.

Also, I'm looking at energy alternatives, particularly solar. We have a lot of sun down here, and would appreciate feedback on the possible viability of using a solar array as an addition to my grid supplied electric feed at the store. We use about 2200KWhr a month at the store (a small convienience type store).

-- John Dillinger (, October 02, 1999



I agree, wholeheartedly, that this site is an exciting and excellent idea and offers a wonderful opportunity for the public to get answers to their questions about de-regulation of the energy industry. Having been in this business for 32 years, I have witnessed and participated in the restructuring currently in progress. While I can assure you that I strongly support the concept of industry competition, I am highly suspect of the general belief that the industry is being de- regulated. It is my view that it is not! So, having said that, please allow me to caution you that my thoughts may be somewhat biased and appear suspicious. There are many utilities that profess to embrace competition and, at the same time, lobbying heavily to sway legislation in their favor. I guess it is the American way. (sigh!)

I do not know the current status of legislation regarding de- regulation in Alabama at this point. That is to say, I am aware of nothing later than the introduction of bill SB 306 which was proposed to allow utilities to recover stranded costs and the recent 1998 effort to begin investigating restructuring. I know the former was never enacted and I do not know the status of the latter. It doesnt surprise me at all that Alabama appears less aggressive than many other states. My own states current efforts are very similar. However, you must understand that many state legislators are currently being lobbied diligently by utilities and consumer focus groups alike. Many states are waiting to see the results of legislation in the more aggressive states. I can tell you that Southern Company is a well respected, if not feared, competitor here in the southeast. For more specific information, I might suggest the two web sites below. This first is from the Alabama Public Service Commission and the other is from the Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports. I urge you to do the research.

I agree that having the ability to choose service providers is good for you. Leverage is important to any consumer and the greater the leverage the better. However, be aware that electric de-regulation is in its infancy and I suspect that there are many paradigms to come.

As a residential customer, you may want to consider joining an aggregation group that can offer the advantages of purchasing large blocks of power. Likewise, as a commercial operator but be careful of these groups as well. Ensure you share a common interest with the group. Learn as much as you can and get involved. Just remember that there are all kinds of potential scams waiting for the unwary public.

Define your requirements and needs. Learn the terminology; do not be afraid to negotiate and understand the difference in nuances between the cheapest price and competitive prices. Understand what you are paying for and what transmission access or distribution access charges mean. Ask yourself, is bigger always better in terms of customer service. If you choose to go with an interruptible or curtailable rate for the lower cost, ensure that you understand what that means to you and your business. In my personal opinion, high reliability should be presumed and never negotiated. Electric utilities cannot guarantee 100% delivery reliability but greater than 99% has been the national average for sometime now. Do not let them charge you for this high level of service.

I would encourage you to look into alternatives. Solar energy is slowly becoming cheaper and technology has improved the practical use of solar arrays. Personally, I do not think it has quite gotten there yet but do not let this discourage you from looking into it. I speak from experience when I say that solar energy has its problems but I believe that the practical viability is inevitable. There are other exciting alternatives on the horizon as well, some with considerable promise. The web is a great place to learn this stuff.

Best of luck, John... and stay informed!!!

-- Tis (, October 02, 1999.

Competition on price alone can be a disaster for the environment and global warming. Brown coal here in Australia is paying peanuts for market access (transmission usage), and is already very cheap. Utility tariffs encourage inefficient night-time usage (storage water heating, in sunny Australia!!), just to keep these coal-fired behemoths online.

Consumers must realise that if we all put a solar WATER heater on our roof, at the expense of electric storage water heaters, we could really shaft the need for more coal and nuclear power plants. The natural ally of solar hot water is CCGT, cogeneration, hydro power, wind power and (last, because it IS the least) photovoltaics.

The electric utilities love photovoltaics because PV is such uncompetitive competition!! If I spend $1500 on solar hot water collector panels, I can get about 4000 kWh/yr of effective energy to heat my water. If I spend $1500 on photovoltaics, I would be very lucky to get 400 kWh/yr of electric energy. These figures are Aussie dollars for the climate of Melbourne, Australia.

Michael Gunter (new domain name, home page to be updated soon)

-- Michael Gunter (, October 09, 1999.

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