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Market Share Defined in Georgia

Market Share Defined in Georgia

The 16 gas suppliers vying for Georgia customers had their moment of truth earlier this month, as Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) determined their market share and presented the results to the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC). As expected, Georgia Natural Gas Services, an AGL affiliate, and Scana Energy Marketing gained the most customers, receiving over 60% of the market between them.

Overall, more than 1.1 million people switched gas suppliers from AGL during the eight-month process. That leaves under 300,000 people to be randomly assigned to the suppliers. The number of customers a supplier gains from that pool will be determined by its market share. From the results AGL gave the GPSC, Georgia Natural stands to gain around 95,000 more customers and Scana will gain around 92,000

One surprise, said a source close to the process, was the third place finisher, Peachtree Natural Gas, which has gained 11% of the available customers so far. He had expected Shell Energy Services (the fourth place finisher with 10% of the market) or Columbia Energy (who stands in fifth place with just over 5%) to place third.

The number of people to be randomly assigned is higher than the GPSC considered ideal. "We had targeted 100,000 people as the amount we wanted to randomly assign," said Nancy Tyler, a member of the GPSC gas staff. "From that standpoint, you could say we fell short of our goal. But, from another point of view, nobody thought we'd get to random assignment this fast either."

Although it is not too late to switch from AGL, it has formed the random assignment lists and distributed them to the marketers. While the GPSC said it is important that people realize they can still switch, it also admitted confusion has crept into the process. The day before market share was determined (Aug. 11), 77,000 people switched from AGL, thinking it was their last chance before being put on a random assignment list. In fact, they had a few more days to do so. The 77,000 people who switched was a one-day record for the state, said Millicent Hunter, an AGL spokeswoman.

"Apparently, many people had it in their minds that if they hadn't switched by Aug. 11, they would be put in a random assignment pool. There were people calling at 1 a.m. trying to switch suppliers," said Bobby Baker, a Georgia Public Service Commissioner. "Unfortunately, there is still plenty of time to switch without having your name put in the random assignment pool."

Switching suppliers is still possible, but there are drawbacks, said Baker. "People who have waited this long to switch now may face some problems. They could switch, but their name might still make it onto a random assignment list. Obviously if that happens, the supplier they selected would be their provider, but there could be billing and paperwork issues that need to be cleared up."

Next month, suppliers will notify the customers who have been randomly assigned to them. People can switch once for free, but AGL will charge $7.50 for any subsequent changes. The utility is scheduled to exit the merchant function Oct. 1.

John Norris

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