Columbia Gas of Virginia Calls Choice Pilot a Success
Columbia Gas of Virginia says the first year of its two-year,
customer-choice program has captured high marks, with about
one-fifth of its eligible customers in the northern part of the
state having signed up to participate in it so far. This is the
"best endorsement for the [program's] expansion" throughout
Columbia's entire service territory, a company official said.
"We're very happy with the results," particularly since this is
the first time that Virginia has had an unbundling program for
residential and commercial customers, said Mike Anderson, a
spokesman for the LDC. "I would say the pilot's been very good so
far. It's shown that our customers want a choice," said David
Bowman, manager of programs and implementation.
Following an eight-month enrollment, Columbia estimates that
4,893 of its 26,500 eligible gas customers in northern Virginia
have joined in the state's first-ever supplier choice program for
either gas or electric. This is about 74% of Columbia's goal of
6,700 customers for the first year of the unbundling pilot,
Anderson noted. "We don't anticipate having any problems meeting
that goal" since the first year of the pilot doesn't end until
October. "In the second year, as the word spreads throughout the
neighborhood...we expect a lot more people to sign up," Bowman
Columbia said it expects to go before the Virginia State
Corporation Commission (SCC) and ask for the customer-choice
program to be expanded to include the entire state.
Bowman believes that the five open-houses that Columbia held,
where customers and suppliers met face-to-face rather than over the
telephone, contributed to the success of the program in its first
year. "You can get a lot better feel for a person from looking them
dead in the eye and asking them questions than you can [from] over
the telephone," he told NGI . "We found the open-houses to be very
successful. That was just one way that we got the word out."
The LDC noted that seven "very active" marketers have been
participating in Columbia's choice program, including Columbia
Energy Services, Statoil Energy Services, Marco Energy Marketing,
PG&E Energy Services, United Energy, Washington Gas Energy
Services and America's Energy (a subsidiary of Northern Virgina
Average residential customers using 80,000 cubic feet of natural
annually have seen savings as much as 8% by participating in the
pilot program, Columbia said. And small business owners using
400,000 cubic feet annually have saved up to 12%.
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