Only 16% Of Texas Residential Customers Visit PUC’s Power To Choose Site Annually
From September 2015 to August 2016, the Texas PUC's PowerToChoose website (including the Spanish-language domain) recorded some 985,000 unique visitors, according to a draft electric Scope of Competition report, to be filed with legislators, prepared by Texas PUC Staff
Based on September 2016 active residential ESI ID data, as filed by the investor-owned TDUs located within ERCOT in their monthly switch-hold reports, the number of active residential ESI IDs with electric choice in ERCOT is about 6.1 million.
In other words, only 16% of residential customers in Texas visited the PowerToChoose site at any point during the last 12 months.
While no doubt 1 million customers is a significant number, the data should hopefully temper some of the hysteria concerning the PUC's consideration of changes to the Power to Choose site, including proposals from some REPs that the site should eliminate the price listing function, given inherent problems which arise from such function.
It is also worth noting that unique visitors to Power to Choose appear to have been decreasing over time. While the 2015 Scope report listed unique visitors over a two-year period, taking the average of visits over that two-year period indicates the site saw 1.5 million unique visitors annually from September 1, 2012 through August 31, 2014
The data indicates that the vast majority of Texans do not use PowerToChoose.com to shop for power. While that alone may not justify the elimination of its rate listings, stakeholders need to be honest that most Texans choose to navigate the electric market without visiting the site.
This is not to diminish the success of the PowerToChoose site or associated outreach in any way. The site and associated education campaigns were integral to the success of the Texas retail electric market when the market first opened some 15 years ago.
In fact, despite a relatively low number of unique visitors versus overall residential customers, the site has been too successful in driving the marketplace -- with any government rate listing's inevitable focus on one easily tangible shopping metric (price per kWh) driving REPs' product design and creation that likely would not have occurred but for REPs' desire to lead the PowerToChoose rate listings in this category, lest REPs (incorrectly) be perceived as "high cost" if they are not listed first on what customers see as the government's official price listing
Opponents of removing the price listings intimate that customers would be thrown into chaos without the site, and that the shopping process cannot be navigated without a government-sponsored price listing. With less than 1 million unique visitors annually to PowerToChoose, the behavior of most Texans clearly says otherwise.
We do not mean to diminish the value the site may bring to its 1 million unique visitors; but the focus should be on whether drawbacks inherently created by limitations associated with any government-sponsored price listing (forcing "squares" [unique electric plans] into round holes that encourage REPs to design plans that appear to have the lowest per-kWh price rather than those which maximize customer value) outweigh any benefits the site brings to its audience, rather than raising strawman arguments that millions of Texans are going to lose their "unbiased" shopping channel if the price listing is eliminated
Note: While a table in the draft report labels unique visitors to PowerToChoose.com, RetailEnergyX confirmed with the PUCT's press office that the cited total includes both the .com and .org domains, for both the English and Spanish versions of the site.