What types of services do Americans value most? At least half of American electricity consumers are willing to pay 30% to 40% more for electricity. A new study from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Palo Alto, Calif., ShareWars offers insights that could make a difference to energy providers who are having difficulty attracting customers.

"The results of this research paint a fundamentally different picture of the marketplace than most industry commentators have described," says Patricia Garber, lead researcher for the EPRI project. "Customers will pay more, substantially more, for energy products that provide them with the value they seek."

Mass market customers haven't been flocking to new energy providers. In fact, many have already pulled out of the market. However, the EPRI study suggests retailers who are willing to break out of the box will succeed by meeting the needs of their customers. This means offering energy service with high-quality personal contact, involving the local community, customizing billing, and providing other "high touch" services—even at prices 30% to 40% higher than competing products.

Similarly, 20% to 30% of business customers indicated a willingness to pay as much as 30% more for a Premium Power Package, which guarantees minimum outages and minimum-voltage fluctuations.

Conducted in geographic areas that were completely regulated, nearly regulated, and completely unregulated, the study's respondents included approximately 1200 residential and 3000 business customers. Business respondents included about 720 large commercial, 900 large industrial, and 1250 small business customers. Researchers analyzed pricing and contract products, renewable energy products, variations in customer service levels, and availability of value-added products.

For more information, contact EPRI's Customer Assistance Center at (800) 313-3774 or visit askepri@epri.com.