Weather Derivatives Make an Impact in Kansas
Demonstrating the growing popularity of weather derivatives,
Kansas Gas Service is on the brink of offering a weather-proof bill
to all 600,000 of its customers, said Steve Johnson, executive
director of corporate relations for the LDC. Johnson and a panel of
weather derivative experts spoke on the growing use of weather
products at NGI's Gasmart/Power'99 in Dallas last week.
Johnson said variances in customer bills and price spikes in
1996 and 1997 triggered interest in a reliable and steady bill. The
strong demand caused the LDC to consider a billing format that
charged the customer the same amount even if the weather
fluctuated. Kansas Gas initiated a pilot program in September 1998
and offered a weather-proof bill to 78,000 of its customers. It
communicated the plan through a series of bill inserts,
telemarketing ventures and radio advertisements. Of the customers
targeted, 10% signed up.
"Those several thousand people have been happy with the service.
Even though the warm winter caused their bills to be higher than
they normally would have been, people understood why they were
higher. We were happy with the sign-up rate and the program's
success pushed us to start offering the billing option to all of
our customers," Johnson said.
Johnson said that an added bonus of weather-proof billing is
that the LDC did not have to account for the signed-up customers
when buying conventional weather derivatives. "By paying that fixed
amount, they already are hedged."
David Zabetakis, a representative for Weatherwise USA, a risk
management group focused on weather-based products, said
distributors have a lot to gain from offering a weather-proof bill.
"The provider gets a guaranteed amount every month, and people who
sign up to the program stay on it." One of Weatherwise's services
is aiding companies that want to implement this type of billing
method. Zabetakis said the billing option is being offered in eight
states presently and will spread to 14 states by September.
None of the panelists would guess how much weather-related
products, such as heating degree-day or cooling degree-day calls,
puts or swaps would grow. "The weather derivative market has grown
exponentially," said Jeff Porter, a member of the Koch Weather
Derivatives Group. "There have been roughly 1,600-1,700 trades
industry-wide since 1997 when Koch and Enron entered into the first
derivatives contract. That is pretty strong growth. Its not
unimaginable growth, but its pretty strong. Where it will go,
however, is anybody's guess."
John Norris, Dallas
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