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Georgia Retail Market Ready to Roll

Georgia Retail Market Ready to Roll

Marketers participating in the soon-to-be-unbundled Georgia market scored some key victories in a decision last week by the Georgia Public Service Commission which will provide them with complete customer information from Atlanta Gas Light in electronic format, allow them a chance to prove they can do their own metering and allow free trading of daily imbalances.

The PSC also increased the credit marketers will receive when they enroll customers. The original credit of $1.81 was increased to $2.19 per month per customer. That represents the discount the marketer will receive on the amount it pays AGL for system service on behalf of each of the marketer's customers.

"These are very important and very positive developments for the competitive market," said David Adelman, with Sutherland, Asbill &amp Brennan, who represents a marketers' coalition.

Scana Energy Marketing was particularly pleased with the fact they will have access to customer information. "This will allow us to tailor proposals based on a customer's actual consumption. We can be a lot more effective. Also, we can save money on direct mail since we will have the actual customer list," said Warren Darby with Scana. He particularly was pleased that the question of meter ownership and meter reading will be handled separately instead of being bundled with all other ancillary services. "This is something we are capable of doing," Darby said, noting Scana has a distributor affiliate.

But mainly, "I'm glad this (the regulatory groundwork) has ended," Darby said. "Now we can get ready - presuming we are certificated - to get into the market. This whole thing in Georgia is very exciting. If it works here it will be the model for the country. It looks like the PSC has thought this whole thing through very well from the customers' perspective." Since marketers are only allowed to serve larger customers in proportion to the number of residentials they serve "we have to keep the residential customers happy or we'll have nothing but dust. We'll be opening a number of customer service offices in the state, not just in Atlanta."

The PSC Tuesday ordered AGL to make the following information on each residential and commercial customer available on CD ROM within the next 15 days: name, service address, billing address, AGL account number, date service established, design-day requirement and last 12 months consumption, designated pool group, billing cycle, type of meter and index device and SIC code (commercial customers only). Marketers will be given the information as soon as they are certified and it is available. Certificates for the original batch of marketer applicants, which has been reduced to 21, are expected to be issued by Oct. 15. The market opens Nov. 1.

As part of its action on a package of submissions by the PSC advisory staff for reconsideration from its June order the Commission set a separate docket to consider on an individual basis whether marketers can install and own meters. The marketer will have to demonstrate he can meet all the technical safety and financial requirements of state and federal law.

Large marketers Enron, PG&ampE Energy Services and Sonat Marketing meanwhile have withdrawn their applications for certification as marketers in the Georgia program. Industry sources suggested that some of the larger marketers might not want to take on the residential market with all its special requirements right now. They are more likely to act as wholesale suppliers to the retail marketers. Among large marketers still seeking certification, however, are Duke Energy Trading and Marketing, Shell Energy Services, Williams Energy Services, Columbia Energy Services and NorAm Energy Management.

Since the unbundling of AGL encompasses most of the state and because of the forward-looking features of the cooperatively-produced plan, which has involved legislators, marketers, AGL and the PSC, the consulting firm Xenergy of Burlington, MA, has selected it for an extensive study. "We expect the Atlanta Gas Light retail choice program to be one of the most interesting and robust restructured energy markets to date," said Dr. William R. Huss, senior vice president in charge of Xenergy's consulting service. The report will examine suppliers and their market share, detailed behavioral and attitudinal data on all types of customers, and a discussion of market rules and their impact on competition. The study also will examine retail gas market activity in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

Ellen Beswick

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