According to a recent survey, one in six U.S. consumers, or 17%,say they can now choose their energy suppliers. However, only 2%have actually changed providers.

“In probing the reasons surrounding the switching decision, weheard most consumers saying that energy companies still pretty muchall look alike,” said Charleen Heidt, vice president of RKSResearch & Consulting, a national market research and publicopinion polling organization. “At the present time, customers seevery little difference between one supplier and another. But thedata suggest they will respond to a compelling offer from adifferent entity that sets itself apart from the pack. Our findingsindicate that few energy companies are reaching out proactively totheir residential customers; the early entrants who do so mayrapidly build market share.”

For the survey, RKS interviewed 999 heads of households duringMay and June and conducted consumer focus groups in Boston,Pittsburgh, Houston, and San Diego.

The survey found widespread satisfaction with customers’ currentenergy providers, with 75% saying they would recommend theirsupplier to others. And 43% said they are very likely to remainwith their present supplier when they have a choice. Loyalty dropsoff quickly – to less than 20% – among households with frequentoutages or billing and service problems with their supplier.

RKS found that more than a third of U.S. consumers believederegulation and increased competition will make investing inenergy securities more attractive. Of those surveyed, one in 10currently holds stock in one or more electric utilities or holdingcompanies. Customers who are more critical of their electricityservice and profess less loyalty to their current provider believederegulation will increase the investment outlook for energystocks, RKS said.

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