As noted last week, more California businesses will soon have an opportunity to save money on their electric bill by shopping for an energy supplier.  The California Public Utilities Commission moved a step closer to giving more customers the right to shop for electricity last week, by setting a procedural schedule for implementing a new, higher cap on the amount of customers who can shop for electricity.

California businesses will want to keep an eye on the middle of March, 2010, when the PUC expects to issue a final decision on how to expand the number of businesses who can shop for electricity.  The expansion of shopping, known as direct access, will occur over three to five years, but how fast the expansion occurs, and how customers may apply to be eligible to shop for electricity, need to be determined by the PUC.  Those issues will be addressed in the PUC's March order.

Given the large savings that California businesses can expect from shopping for electricity, space available under the cap will likely go fast.  Customers will want to be ready to shop for electricity and submit a switch request as soon as possible to avoid getting locked out of the opportunity to choose their energy provider.

In order to navigate through the process of choosing an electric company, you need to understand your options, evaluate different product types, and screen potential suppliers ahead of the re-opening of the market.  Most California businesses have never shopped for electricity, or if they have, they haven't done so for over nine years.  The market has changed a lot since then, with new players, more innovative but complex products and pricing plans, and more ways to customize rates to maximize savings for the usage and load patterns of individual customers.

This maze of information would normally be daunting for any business, but will be especially overwhelming for businesses trying to make a quick decision on finding a new energy supplier, in order to avoid being locked out of the ability to choose their energy supplier under the new cap.