No Red Letter Day for BlueStar

Illinois opened its electricity market for non-residential customers in 1999. In 2010, about 75% of the electric load for commercial and industrial customers is purchased through alternative suppliers. That deregulation was a big success.

The state then deregulated its residential market in 2002. Virtually no one paid attention. Now there is a competitor about to enter the residential market where few have dared venture in the last eight years. But this entry is virtually certain to fail. BlueStar Energy is an alternative electricity supplier based in Chicago. This company is offering twelve month contracts that would lock in prices for consumers and save them an average of $6 to $7 per month over what those consumers would have paid to Commonwealth Edison.

We have to translate these $6 to $7 a month savings into percentages in order to have any perspective on the company’s prospects for success. These savings amount to an 8% to 9% savings for the consumer. This is not nearly enough to attract many new consumers.

We maintain a database of several hundred price reductions done over the last twenty-five years. These price reductions will vary according to the discounters’ objectives, target segments and with the components of price conveying for the discount. There is a strong warning for BlueStar in this price data. Their discount is not enough. Across our entire database of price reductions, the median discount is 25%, 75% of all discounts are 10% or more. That makes BlueStar’s 8% to 9% offering pretty sickly. (See StrategyStreet/Improve/Pricing/Reduce Price)

But the story gets worse if you are a low-end Price Leader as BlueStar is. BlueStar offers no advantage to the consumer other than price. That makes them a Price Leader. Price Leaders have to offer higher-than-average discounts in order to win significant market share. Low-end competitors have median discounts of 33%, 75% of them offer discounts of 20% or more to their customers.

Apparently, there are four other companies that Illinois has certified to supply residential electricity. They are waiting to see whether BlueStar is successful before entering. They won’t be coming. And BlueStar won’t be staying.

Posted 6/14/10