TX Utility Seeks Shop

The Texas Public Utilities Commission is looking for an agency to create a consumer-education campaign promoting the opening of the state’s energy market to alternative providers in 2002, the client said.
The contract will be one of the largest in the state for a government entity. The project will be funded at $12 million for the first year and could lead to as much as $48 million for the four-year assignment.
The PUC, based in Austin, Texas, plans to issue an RFP next month and select an agency in November, said Bob Bartels, customer education liaison with the PUC. The review will be managed in-house.
The PUC is looking for an integrated campaign that includes public relations and the creation of a Web site, as well as traditional advertising. Shops may partner with specialists in these areas to provide the full suite of services.
“We certainly want as many qualified bidders as possible,” said Bartels. “Organizations that have a good knowledge of the Texas marketplace [are preferred]. … At this point, it doesn’t eliminate out-of-state agencies.”
The PUC has hired a consultant to evaluate public-education campaigns in states such as Connecticut and Maryland, where competitive energy markets were introduced.
“Customer education has played an important role in helping prepare customers for the changes that are coming,” Bartels said. Texas’ effort has been temporarily tagged the “Texas Choice Program.”
The state currently licenses 10 private companies to supply energy to about 80 percent of the market. The rest is serviced by utilities owned by municipalities or energy cooperatives. K