If SCANA Energy’s Georgia marketing strategy works, gasmolecules will follow the trail blazed by electrons into the homesand businesses of customers soon to be granted supplier choice.SCANA Energy, a division of SCANA Energy Marketing, formed amarketing alliance with two electric utility companies servingparts of metropolitan Atlanta to market gas to residential andcommercial customers.

Cobb Energy Management Corp. and Snapping Shoals EnergyManagement Corp. signed a gas retail service alliance agreementwith SCANA. The agreement will enable SCANA to market its gasservices directly to about 200,000 Electric Membership Corp. (EMC)customers in areas served by Cobb and Snapping Shoals EMCs. Thisincludes portions of Cobb, Cherokee, Paulding, Bartow, Fulton,Rockdale, Henry, Newton and southeast DeKalb counties.

SCANA’s effort capitalizes on the one-stop shopping philosophysimilar to that advocated by suppliers who offer gas service alongwith, for instance, telecommunications or home services. “This isdifferent [though] as we are going in as a partner with the co-opsto their customers. So the co-op customer has the opportunity topurchase natural gas from someone they are currently purchasingelectricity from. It’s a much better opportunity for us becausewe’re going with one of their current providers of energy,” saidSCANA spokesman Roger Schrum.

To bolster the marketing effort, SCANA could add other servicesto its offering to customers. “We are very much considering that,”Schrum said. SCANA is an investor in telecommunications, homesecurity and appliance protection, as well as Internet businesses,he said.

“We’ll be doing a number of differing marketing initiativesthroughout the state. We may have a number of differing offeringsthat we will be providing. We do plan to provide servicesthroughout Atlanta Gas Light’s service territory throughout thestate, which is about 1.5 million customers.”

Efforts could include alliances with other electric co-ops, ofwhich the state has about 20. Schrum said he was unaware of anyGeorgia co-ops with poor customer relationships that would precludeSCANA’s hitching its star to them. He said electric deregulationisn’t on SCANA’s radar screen and not a threat to its co-opalliances as no electric deregulation legislation is currentlybeing pursued in Georgia.

About 90% of the EMC customers currently have gas service, hesaid. The remaining 10% would get service only if Atlanta Gas Lightchooses to expand its distribution system. In the coming months,Georgia consumers will be able to select their gas supplier.Legislation passed in 1997 by the Georgia General Assembly allowsfor the deregulation of the state’s gas industry over the next fewyears.

“When the market opens in the fall, we will be ready to addnatural gas to the growing list of products and services that wemake available to our customers,” said Randall Meadows, CEO ofRockdale’s Snapping Shoals EMC. “In the meantime, we intend to makesure our customers are sufficiently informed to take advantage ofthe new consumer opportunities that deregulation will present.”

The Georgia Public Service Commission is expected to issue anorder later this month that will further outline the move to acompetitive marketplace. The commission must approve all of themarketers who offer to provide residential and commercial servicesin Georgia. Certified marketers will be able to begin solicitingcustomers in October or November.

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