Virginia seeking agency to teach consumers about energy options

RICHMOND, VA: Do you know all there is to know about energy deregulation?

RICHMOND, VA: Do you know all there is to know about energy deregulation?

RICHMOND, VA: Do you know all there is to know about energy deregulation?

Residents in the Commonwealth of Virginia soon will, via a dollars 30 million consumer education program to be launched next year.

Virginia's State Corporation Commission has issued an RFP inviting PR and advertising firms to bid on a multi-million dollar, four-year consumer education program to create awareness about what utility industry restructuring means to its citizens.

More than 20 firms from all over the country turned out for the bidders' conference. No preference, officials say, will be given to Virginia-based agencies. Among the firms attending the conference were Burson-Marsteller, Shandwick International, Siddall, Matus & Coughter, Earle Palmer Brown and Carter Ryley Thomas.

While CRT helped the SCC put together elements of the plan presented to the General Assembly in order to get funding, Ken Schrad, SCC's director of information resources, says the firm does not have an 'inside track.'

The commission hopes to do better than other states which are further ahead in the deregulation process.

At the conference Schrad said: 'The biggest challenge is letting people know that there's a change in the way they buy electricity.' Other states, he said, have been successful with campaigns, but only had 6% to 20% of their customers switch. Most people take the path of least resistance: they do nothing and stay with their current providers.

Virginians will be able to choose their electricity provider January 1, 2002. Schrad hopes that by then, at least 70% of the population will know they have a choice of electricity provider, rising to 90% by 2004.

Gas deregulation was put on a fast track and companies are rolling out choices by jurisdiction.

Schrad said the process and timing to pick an agency depends upon the number of proposals received. All proposals were due November 3.

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