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Deregulation Good, Deregulation Bad

A woman called to complain that Kentucky Living prints only bad things about electric
utility deregulation. She said there’s another side: We need lower rates and a
choice of electricity suppliers, the way we benefited from telephone deregulation.

Valid points, I conceded. Here’s my summary of our chat:

We don’t say anything good about deregulation. I plead guilty. The official position
of our publisher, the association that represents Kentucky’s electric cooperatives,
is caution. We don’t oppose deregulation, but see it as a complex issue with a
lot of unanswered questions. That’s why in the last session of the legislature
we called for a task force to study the issue. That task force, which was established
by the legislature, is preparing its final report to the next legislative session
in January.

We need lower rates. True. We can always look for a better deal. But the fact
that Kentucky’s rates are among the lowest in the nation is another reason electric
co-ops want to proceed carefully. A task force study indicates that under deregulation
rates would go up for some, down for others. We fear that it would be mainly people
living in the country who would see higher rates and diminished service.

We need a choice of electricity suppliers. Seems obvious, but who gets to choose-you
or the utilities? When California and Pennsylvania deregulated, utilities competed
to serve business and industry, but not rural homeowners. Utilities didn’t see
large profits in serving those folks, so they chose not to serve them.

Telephone deregulation worked. I can see both sides on this one. We’ve benefited
from more choices-portable phones, caller ID, answering machines. On the other
hand, I’ve got a couple malfunctioning phones stuffed under beds and on closet
shelves. What does that cost me? What do those additional services cost? Have
I saved money? I don’t know. I get at least three phone bills and can’t understand
any of them.

I suspect I haven’t persuaded that caller that we are right, but I hope we’ve
done some good for her and for all our readers by being straightforward about
our point of view. As consumer-owned utilities, our mission is to look out for
your best interests. Keeping this important issue in front of you is part of that
mission. We’ll continue to keep you posted.

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