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First Deliveries Arrive In Georgia Unbundling

First Deliveries Arrive In Georgia Unbundling

Only five of a possible 19 marketers are making deliveries to about 16,000 out of 1.4 million customers of Atlanta Gas Light this month, but it's a start in the LDC's state-approved plan to work its way out of the regulated merchant business.

Of the five - Scana Energy Marketing, Infinite Energy, e prime Inc., Peachtree Natural Gas, and Georgia Natural Gas Services (the AGL affiliate) - Scana was claiming the lion's share of customers. Marketers said they were surprised at how large the number of switching customers was, given the short time for marketing between the time the marketers were certified and the Oct. 26 cut-off for Nov. 1 deliveries. Marketers now are switching their focus to Nov. 24, the date that marks the end of the second round of signings for deliveries to start Dec. 1.

The sign-up total was "pretty good," said Steve Kennedy, a representative from United Gas Management, a company that began to market to customers after the first round ended. "But nobody will be able to make any judgments because the processes are so new."

According to Scana Energy Marketing representative Randy Michaels, Scana took over 90% of the new signings. Like Scana, Natural Gas Services was happy with their performance. "Both the total number of switching customers and the number of customers who joined our company vastly exceeded our expectations," said representative Clifford Payne.

Yet some other companies were not so upbeat. One source within e prime Inc. said the company was a "little disappointed. Many of our orders were sent back to us by AGL because of a glitch in the information transfer, like variations in names and the presence of a middle initial."

The information glitch was a factor in many marketers' decisions to not enter in the first month. According to Georgia Public Services Commission spokesman Shawn Davis, "Most just anticipated glitches in the system and scheduled their promotional efforts with that in mind." Yet, others had a different take on the glitch. "Its like a kid trying to cram for an exam going against a kid who's been studying all along," said Scana Representative Randy Michaels, "They just did not put in the research time and money that we did."

The second round of signings should allow for a clearer picture as more marketers participate and customers become educated. One big block of consumers, held by the aggregator Grass Roots Energy should be signed for new service by Jan. 1. Grass Roots has 34,000 clients who are letting the company negotiate their deal for them. According to Grass Roots President Dave Rich, the company wanted to sign with a marketer in the first round, but many marketers were unprepared. Rich feels that as the consumers and marketers gain experience, the process will flow more smoothly.

John Norris

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