CERAWeek: Competition not to blame for higher electric rates (Updated)

Deryk King, CEO of Direct Energy, Centrica North America (Direct Energy is the No. 3 electric retailer in Texas):
King said there are four areas where electric competition has made a difference: 1. Choice and value for customers;
2. Conservation;
3. Technological Innovation;
4. Efficient decision-making on where and how to build new generation.
King said he hears customers don’t want choice, that it’s too confusing. But he points to the U.K. and Australia where choice and switching rates are very high.
Surveys in the U.S. show most consumers want to choose their electric provider, King said.
So why didn’t prices go down when competition started? This argument ignores that dereg didn’t cause prices to go up, it was rising costs, he said.
Direct Energy’s King continued:
Conservation: Many markets separate customers from market signals that would lead to conservation. Consumers must pay true economic price of electricity or they won’t conserve, King said.
Usually no one has anything nice to say about California and power markets, but King says there’s an exception: California has done well with conservation programs to get consumers to use less. This means their bills tend to be lower despite high rates.
Innovation: Technology may let consumers “enjoy” hourly pricing, meaning if they don’t use power during peak times (in Texas the afternoons between 1 and 6 or so) they don’t pay as much.
New generation capacity: Total demand will continue to increase even with conservation, perhaps including the advent of plug-in hybrids.
King said he hopes to see touch carbon legislation that leads to real price signals. In Canada the trading is close to $15 per ton of carbon, and that’s not enough. In Europe it’s trading at $30 per ton, he said, and heading for $40.
“… and that’s what’s needed for change.” King said.