In the future, electricity consumers will have more choice in where they get their electricity. Through online marketplaces, they’ll be able to shop and pick the best electricity offer for their usage and budget. More competition will eventually lead to more options, better rates and new opportunities for consumers and innovative new companies alike.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the future is today.
With funding support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the USAID Energy Investment Activity jointly developed a price comparison platform. This one-of-a-kind tool will help BiH regulators develop the country’s competitive retail electricity market and educate consumers about how to shop for electricity.
The Need for the Price Comparison Platform
The platform, unveiled at a February 2017 workshop in Mostar, will set BiH regulators apart in their ability to facilitate retail electricity choice. The country is on the path to develop its competitive retail electricity market in order to meet its obligations as a signatory to the Energy Community Treaty and to make progress toward greater integration with the European Union.
In light of this, BiH regulators have been collaborating with US regulators in two of the most advanced states for competitive retail electricity markets – Ohio and Pennsylvania – on the best ways to educate customers and foster the development of retail electric choice. Only customers in select states in the US and countries within the EU actively shop for electricity. Despite the benefits of providing choice to consumers, the general public is mostly unfamiliar with this type of shopping or even knows that the option is available to them.
And while all Energy Community signatories are required to develop competitive retail electricity markets, none have a comparison platform like the one NARUC and USAID Energy Investment Activity have developed for the BiH regulators.
'Apples to Apples' Comparisons
As seen in the US and EU, the price comparison platform is a critical tool that accelerates the development and robustness of competitive retail electricity markets. The platform allows for an easy comparison of different electricity offers so that customers can make an “apples to apples” comparison. It imitates the experience of shopping online for other household products.
The platform also provides a one-stop venue for regulators to monitor the market and provide valuable educational material to customers.
During the February 2017 workshop where the platform was unveiled, NARUC and USAID Energy Investment Activity experts stressed that shopping for electricity is new for customers and involves a product and process they may not be familiar with at first. As such, it is important to inform customers about what the product is, how they can shop, what their rights are, and how they can register a complaint should they come across a bad actor in the market.
In addition to the price comparison tool, the workshop also focused on general and web-related communications best practices, drawing from a document NARUC is developing titled “Competitive Retail Electricity Markets General and Web-related Communications Best Practices.” Drafted by NARUC staff with input from USAID Energy Investment Activity and US regulators, the document outlines the necessary steps and actions that regulators have to take to improve customer education and overall communications, including setting in place the necessary regulatory framework and adopting customer-friendly language.
USAID’s Energy Investment Activity organized breakout sessions for BiH regulators and other energy stakeholders to assemble mission statements and simulate communications with media, and presentations from regulators in Ohio and Pennsylvania provided real-life application of customer education, media engagement, and price comparison tool best practices.