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Marietta, GA, Municipal Selects Columbia

Marietta, GA, Municipal Selects Columbia

Georgia deregulation proved it is in full throttle last week as the municipality representing the city of Marietta formed an alliance with Columbia Energy's Georgia affiliate, Columbia Energy Retail Corp. The alliance calls for a 10-year deal with the city at a guaranteed base price of 39.9 cents per therm for one year and a contractual promise to be competitive for the other nine. The municipality includes between 30,000 and 40,000 gas customers.

"We chose Columbia because they have a long-standing history in Georgia, and because of their experience in deregulating markets," said Chris Browning, a spokesman for Marietta Power, the government body assigned to shop the gas market. "The people at Columbia are involved in 15 deregulating markets nationwide, and have a large portion of the deregulated market throughout the U.S. It was their reputation that caused us to sign with them."

Now Marietta citizens have the option of accepting Columbia's offer through the city, or finding a marketer by themselves. "Our market surveys indicate that we'll capture somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% of our customer base," Browning said "I'd like to think we'll do better than that, but it will take several months before our whole customer base signs with one marketer or another."

If the individual customers do not make a choice, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) will make it for them. Once 33% of the state's gas customers sign with a provider, the PSC will assign the other 67% of the state on a predetermined basis. "People just can't seem to stop switching," said Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) spokesman Ross Willis.

The state officially began unbundling on Nov. 1. Since then, over 200,000 Georgians have switched to one of 19 Georgia PSC-certified gas providers. Willis added that the PSC will start assigning customers once the switching customer total reaches 495,000.

John Norris

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