AGA: Choice an Option In Most U.S. Homes

Nearly half of the U.S. households with natural gas service already can or soon will be able to buy their fuel from a competitive supplier, demonstrating how quickly competition is growing in the natural gas industry, according to a study by the American Gas Association.

In an updated report released last week, AGA noted that nearly 49%, or 26 million of the 54 million U.S. households with natural gas service, could now or will soon be able to buy their natural gas from a non-utility supplier. Customer choice has steadily grown in the past four years, with customer choice offered to fewer than two million customers nationwide before 1996, according to AGA.

The report, "Providing New Services to Residential Natural Gas Customers: A Summary of Customer Choice Pilot Programs and Initiatives," said that competition exists in 23 states and the District of Columbia. About 20%, or nearly one in five households with a choice option, already have switched suppliers, said the report.

AGA reports that more than 95% of large-volume natural gas customers, including factories and electric power plants, may select their own natural gas supplier. Also, nearly 70% of commercial natural gas customers, such as hospitals and office buildings, have a choice in suppliers.

New York, which offers a statewide customer choice program, leads the country in the potential number of customers who may choose their supplier, with 4.1 million customers and a potential demand of 339.5 Bcf. California, which offers customer choice to about 4.07 million customers, is second with a potential demand of 254.9 Bcf. Pennsylvania is third, offering choice to 2.49 million customers and a demand of 217.9 Bcf, while New Jersey is fourth with 2.25 million customers and 1.96 Bcf demand.

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