NGI The Weekly Gas Market Report / NGI All News Access

GA Gas Marketer Playing Follow That Electron

GA Gas Marketer Playing Follow That Electron

If SCANA Energy's Georgia marketing strategy works, gas molecules will follow the trail blazed by electrons into the homes and businesses of customers soon to be granted supplier choice. SCANA Energy, a division of SCANA Energy Marketing, formed a marketing alliance with two electric utility co-ops serving parts of metropolitan Atlanta to market gas to residential and commercial customers.

Cobb Energy Management, an affiliate of the Cobb Electric Membership Corp., and Snapping Shoals Energy Management, an affiliate of Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corp., signed a gas retail service alliance agreement with SCANA Energy. The agreement will enable SCANA to market its gas services directly to about 200,000 Electric Membership Corp. (EMC) customers in areas served by Cobb and Snapping Shoals EMCs. This includes portions of Cobb, Cherokee, Paulding, Bartow, Fulton, Rockdale, Henry, Newton and southeast DeKalb counties.

SCANA's effort capitalizes on the one-stop shopping philosophy similar to that advocated by suppliers who offer gas service along with, for instance, telecommunications or home services. "This is different [though] as we are going in as a partner with the co-ops to their customers. So the co-op customer has the opportunity to purchase natural gas from someone they are currently purchasing electricity from. It's a much better opportunity for us because we're going with one of their current providers of energy," said SCANA spokesman Roger Schrum.

To bolster the marketing effort, SCANA could add other services to its offering to customers. "We are very much considering that," Schrum said. SCANA is an investor in telecommunications, home security and appliance protection, as well as Internet businesses, he said.

"We'll be doing a number of differing marketing initiatives throughout the state. We may have a number of differing offerings that we will be providing. We do plan to provide services throughout Atlanta Gas Light's service territory throughout the state, which is about 1.5 million customers."

Efforts could include alliances with other electric co-ops, of which the state has about 20. Schrum said he was unaware of any Georgia co-ops with poor customer relationships that would preclude SCANA's hitching its star to them. He said electric deregulation isn't on SCANA's radar screen and not a threat to its co-op alliances as no electric deregulation legislation is currently being pursued in Georgia.

About 90% of the EMC customers currently have gas service, he said. The remaining 10% would get service only if Atlanta Gas Light chooses to expand its distribution system. In the coming months, Georgia consumers will be able to select their gas supplier. Legislation passed in 1997 by the Georgia General Assembly allows for the deregulation of the state's gas industry over the next few years.

"When the market opens in the fall, we will be ready to add natural gas to the growing list of products and services that we make available to our customers," said Randall Meadows, CEO of Rockdale's Snapping Shoals EMC. "In the meantime, we intend to make sure our customers are sufficiently informed to take advantage of the new consumer opportunities that deregulation will present."

SCANA isn't the only company pursuing a strategy involving electric utilities. Georgia marketer Optimum Energy Sources expects to be making an announcement similar to SCANA's in about two weeks, said Optimum President Deborah Latham. "At this point all that I am prepared to say is that it is definitely true that we are working with a lot of utilities, and call me in two weeks." She said she knows of others who have tried and failed in hooking up with electric utilities to market gas. "Probably [because of] a little bit of ego, a little bit of inflexibility, an inability to understand exactly what it is the customer wants and catering to that. That would be my take on it, and we've come up against the best in some of these deals in Georgia so far. As far as I know almost everybody and their brother has pursued the electric utilities in Georgia."

The Georgia Public Service Commission is expected to issue an order later this month that will further outline the move to a competitive marketplace. The commission must approve all of the marketers who offer to provide residential and commercial services in Georgia. Certified marketers will be able to begin soliciting customers in October or November.

Joe Fisher, Houston

©Copyright 1998 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed in whole or in part without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.

Copyright ©2018 Natural Gas Intelligence - All Rights Reserved.
ISSN © 2577-9877 | ISSN © 1532-1266
Comments powered by Disqus