Pennsylvania electricity customers are skeptical they can save much by shopping for power.
Although 88 percent of customers say they are aware they can switch to alternative suppliers, only 45 percent have shopped, according to a statewide survey conducted by Terry Madonna Opinion Research.
Twenty-three percent of residential customers statewide have switched, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. About 1.4 million customers have switched.
Madonna and several electricity suppliers told the PUC on Thursday that nearly a year after Pennsylvania's retail utility deregulation went into full effect, the public remains wary of shopping.
"There are a fair number of people who did not look into changing an electric supplier because they didn't believe there would be long-term savings in it," said Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster.
The poll results were presented Thursday at a PUC hearing on competition.
The surveys found that price was the main concern driving customers to switch, but many said the perceived savings were insufficient to make them switch.
Suppliers said some residential customers have recorded savings up to $300 a year.
Madonna, who conducted his telephone survey of 801 customers in September on behalf of Constellation Energy, said 78 percent said they would consider switching if they could save 10 percent on their generation charge.
Many customers who declined to shop said they were happy with their current supplier regardless of the cost.
Madonna's findings were echoed by an Internet survey of 450 customers conducted by AlphaBuyer, a Paoli group- buyer that markets online.
Forty percent of the customers said the savings were not worth it, said Kevin McCloskey, AlphaBuyer's chief operating officer. About 24 percent said shopping was too confusing or the choices overwhelming. About 15 percent said switching was too risky or that it was a "scam."
Under Pennsylvania's Electric Choice law, customers can choose a company that markets the power. Billing is still conducted by the incumbent utility company, which collects a fee for distributing the power.
Customers who don't switch are still supplied by the utility at a default rate.
Only 18 percent of customers had visited the PUC's website for choosing a supplier. PUC members said more customer education was needed.
"It's perplexing to us with all the tools being made available to customers we only see 20 percent of the residential customers shopping," said Robert F. Powelson, PUC chairman.
Peco Energy Co. responds to customer questions at www.pecoanswers.com.
Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission explains electrical choice and lists alternative suppliers at www.papowerswitch.com.