Columbia Seeks to Extend VA Pilot Program
Columbia Gas of Virginia filed a motion with the Virginia State
Corporation Commission (SCC) last week to extend its pilot program
through Oct. 1, 2000. The two-year program is set to expire in
October of this year. The SCC said no date has been set for a
ruling on the filing.
Columbia Gas said it is seeking the extension because of the
program's popularity and because it anticipates statewide customer
choice to be initiated next year. In the two years since the
program started, 7,750 or 29% of eligible participants have
switched to one of nine suppliers. The program is available to a
total of 26,500 customers residing in Manassas, Manassas Park and
Culpeper, Fairfax, Greene, Loudon, Louisa, Madison, Orange and
Prince William counties. Washington Gas also has an active pilot
program in Northern Virginia as well.
"The strength of the program's acceptance in northern Virginia
is the best endorsement for its expansion to Columbia Gas of
Virginia's customers statewide," said David Bowman, manager of the
LDC's customer choice program. "The suppliers are offering a
competitive menu of pricing options and other incentives, and
that's great news for [our] customers."
Mike Anderson, a Columbia spokesman, said the company is
shooting for a 50% participation rate by the year's end. "We are
thrilled with the 30%, especially when you factor in the fact that
Virginia has had two straight mild winters. For this being a brand
new concept in Virginia when we started, the numbers make us very
Anderson said Columbia was a leader in last winter's successful
passage of State Sen. Charles Colgan's (D-Manassas) gas
deregulation bill. One of the stipulations of the bill prevents any
of Virginia's LDCs from requesting the SCC expand their pilot
programs statewide until the year 2000. Anderson said Columbia is
biting at the lip to do so. "We are very confident to have this
extension passed. Once we do that, we can continue offering choice
almost until 2000. We intend to go back to the General Assembly in
early 2000 and ask them to re-enact the deregulation legislation.
If that occurs, then we can petition the SCC to let us expand
choice to our entire customer base."
The Chesterfield County-based Columbia Gas of Virginia is a
subsidiary of Columbia Energy Group. It delivers gas to 178,000
customers in portions of northern Virginia, Fredricksburg, the
Shenandoah Valley, the Lynchburg region, and suburbs of Richmond as
well as other parts of the state.
©Copyright 1999 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The
preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in
whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of
Intelligence Press, Inc.