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Georgia Legislature Puts Gas Competition on Fast Track

Georgia Legislature Puts Gas Competition on Fast Track

The Georgia Senate approved House Bill 822 by a vote of 52-0 Wednesday, paving the way for a one time, statewide customer assignment process to occur before the next heating season. Having already passed the House of Representatives unanimously, the amendment only needs Gov. Roy Barnes' signature before it becomes law.

The amendment gives the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) the ability to deem any of the nine pool groups in the state as competitive. Once the pool attains competitive status, its members will have 100 days to choose a supplier before the GPSC assigns them to one. After the assignment process concludes, AGL will have totally exited the merchant function.

Public Service Commissioner Bobby Baker said once the GPSC attains the ability to judge a pool's market competition, things will happen quickly. "We'll investigate each area and evaluate the market. The three main things we will look for are abundance of marketers, price competition, and an even balance of residential, commercial, and industrial switches. I don't think any of the pools will have a hard time demonstrating competitiveness. We're shooting for the completion of the random assignment process by Aug. 31."

Baker said docket 10473 has been opened in the GPSC in anticipation of the bill's passage. This docket requests that the three pools that have passed the 33% mark be deemed competitive but also allows an opportunity for more pools to be added. Baker said if the bill is passed, the GPSC will attempt to put all the pools onto the docket regardless of percentages.

One result from the bill's success, Baker said, is a revived interest in becoming a certified marketer in Georgia. Last week, KeySpan and Sonat applied to be a marketer, and Southeast States Energy, a marketing subsidiary of Perry Gas Co., Inc., had its certification approved. "I don't know why they entered so late, but now is a good time. If this amendment passes and all the pools are labeled competitive, AGL will send out a flyer to all the customers it still serves saying they only have 100 days to pick a supplier before they are assigned. AGL will also provide a list of marketers to those customers. These new marketers definitely want the advertising associated with that list." John Norris

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