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Terasen Files Customer Choice Plan in BC

Although gas unbundling and customer choice seems to have taken a step backward in the United States (see related story), it's still just getting started in British Columbia. Terasen Gas said last week that it aims to offer new supplier options to its residential customers by May 2007, given regulatory approval.

The Kinder Morgan subsidiary filed a proposal with the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) that would allow residential consumers to sign long-term fixed price contracts for gas supply from third party marketers. Under the program, independent gas marketers can offer supply contracts with between one- and five-year terms. A similar program for small and mid-size commercial customers was launched in BC in 2004 and similar residential choice programs are available in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

"We are committed to providing effective customer choice that meets the needs of the marketplace and provides value for our customers," said Doug Stout, Terasen Gas vice president of marketing and business development.

"By bringing this proposal forward, we are responding to requests from interested parties, the BCUC and the provincial government to provide consumers with choice. The role of Terasen Gas is to work with all interested parties to create a program that meets the interests of stakeholders, provides value to our customers, and is supportive of the BC energy policy."

The provincial government's energy policy, released in 2002, laid the groundwork for unbundling. In 2004, provincial regulators began allowing marketers to sell to commercial customers. The commission is responsible for licensing the marketers and ensuring they follow a code of conduct.

According to Terasen's filing, choice will be available to residential customers in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Interior and the Kootenays (excluding Fort Nelson, Whistler and Revelstoke). Due to the different regulatory agreements in place, it will not be available on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast or Powell River.

If the BCUC approves the program, Terasen will need to make changes to its billing system, after which marketers would be able to begin enrolling customers starting May 2007, with gas flowing to enrolled customers starting Nov. 1, 2007. Terasen will continue to manage billing and delivery. The bill format will change slightly to include additional information including a listing of all charges, the name of the supplier (Terasen Gas or a gas marketer), and the contract rate for the natural gas commodity. Delivery charges are set separately by Terasen Gas and approved by the BCUC.

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