Only five of a possible 19 marketers are making deliveries toabout 16,000 out of 1.4 million customers of Atlanta Gas Light thismonth, but it’s a start in the LDC’s state-approved plan to workits way out of the regulated merchant business.

Of the five – Scana Energy Marketing, Infinite Energy, e primeInc., Peachtree Natural Gas, and Georgia Natural Gas Services (theAGL affiliate) – Scana was claiming the lion’s share of customers.Marketers said they were surprised at how large the number ofswitching customers was, given the short time for marketing betweenthe time the marketers were certified and the Oct. 26 cut-off forNov. 1 deliveries. Marketers now are switching their focus to Nov.24, the date that marks the end of the second round of signings fordeliveries to start Dec. 1.

The sign-up total was “pretty good,” said Steve Kennedy, arepresentative from United Gas Management, a company that began tomarket to customers after the first round ended. “But nobody willbe able to make any judgments because the processes are so new.”

According to Scana Energy Marketing representative RandyMichaels, Scana took over 90% of the new signings. Like Scana,Natural Gas Services was happy with their performance. “Both thetotal number of switching customers and the number of customers whojoined our company vastly exceeded our expectations,” saidrepresentative Clifford Payne.

Yet some other companies were not so upbeat. One source within eprime Inc. said the company was a “little disappointed. Many ofour orders were sent back to us by AGL because of a glitch in theinformation transfer, like variations in names and the presence ofa middle initial.”

The information glitch was a factor in many marketers’ decisionsto not enter in the first month. According to Georgia PublicServices Commission spokesman Shawn Davis, “Most just anticipatedglitches in the system and scheduled their promotional efforts withthat in mind.” Yet, others had a different take on the glitch. “Itslike a kid trying to cram for an exam going against a kid who’sbeen studying all along,” said Scana Representative Randy Michaels,”They just did not put in the research time and money that we did.”

The second round of signings should allow for a clearer pictureas more marketers participate and customers become educated. Onebig block of consumers, held by the aggregator Grass Roots Energyshould be signed for new service by Jan. 1. Grass Roots has 34,000clients who are letting the company negotiate their deal for them. According to Grass Roots President Dave Rich, the company wanted tosign with a marketer in the first round, but many marketers wereunprepared. Rich feels that as the consumers and marketers gainexperience, the process will flow more smoothly.

John Norris

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