Retail electric competition will be upon us soon and with that comes a statewide customer education program designed to prepare electric utility customers in Texas. Though retail competition may seem confusing, it is a relatively simple process that will allow customers to select the company that sells electricity to their home or business. Beginning this month, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) will implement a customer education campaign that will provide Texans with the tools to help them make an informed choice about their electric provider. The information will allow them to determine what best suits their needs. What is most important to Texans’ A recent customer survey found the following: ‘The ability to lower their monthly electric bill. ‘The ability to select an energy provider of their choice. ‘The ability to choose an environmentally friendly energy source. ‘The ability to join a group that simplifies buying decisions. ‘The ability to have a tailored billing option. Texans’ most important tool will be knowledge and a good understanding of the benefits and changes coming to the electric marketplace. The PUC is developing a customer eduction plan to convey this information’presented in ways that are clear and easy to understand. The customer education plan will let Texans learn about retail competition on their own terms and when they are ready. Next spring, both residential and small business electricity customers should expect to see: Advertising: This will be used to build awareness and generate interest in the concept of electric choice. The PUC will focus on the Pilot Program first’allowing a limited number of Texans the opportunity to experience first-hand the benefits of competition. Expect to see more advertising when the thermometer climbs into the 90s next summer. The PUC’s efforts will reach Texans at home through television, in their cars by outdoor billboards and radio and through ads in newspapers. Public Relations: By educating the media, everyone can be educated and informed about electric choice. PUC’s goal is to educate the “gatekeepers” of information with accurate and continuously updated information. Texans can expect to see articles about electric competition in local and Spanish-language newspapers. Information may also be distributed in broadcasts of local weather reports. Community-based outreach: Organizations such as the Kiwanis Club, Chambers of Commerce and United Way of Texas provide excellent opportunities for the PUC to provide customers with more information on electric choice. Through speaking engagements and printed educational materials, we can support localized learning. Printed educational materials: Many Texas electric utility customers will have the chance to join the Pilot Program. It will allow them to choose a new electric provider before everyone else. A variety of information about the Pilot Program and retail competition will be mailed, inserted in newspapers or available by request. Toll-free number: Texans will have questions about retail competition. The PUC will establish a toll-free number that will allow everyone to speak to experts who can answer questions over the phone or send helpful materials through the mail. Web site: The PUC website will contain in-depth information about retail competition. Texans will be able to browse through easy-to-understand information about electric choice that will include options, environmental impacts, renewable energy, customer protections, bill explanations, frequently asked questions and more. Customers will be able to email PUC with a question or download printed educational materials. In addition to the PUC’s customer education program, Texans will be hearing from a number of electric providers interested in obtaining their business. Texans should make it a point to learn more about electric choices. The commission will protect customers and ensure that they continue to receive safe and reliable electric service at reasonable rates.