In the battle between marketers and LDCs to restructure the gasindustry, commercial customers are being overlooked, according toKathleen Magruder, vice president of rates and tariffs for EnronEnergy Services (EES). “I had a regulator. say to me, ‘Well, ‘I’venever heard a commercial customer say they really want somechoice.’ So the next meeting I brought in 15 commercial customers.He was real unhappy.

“Joe from Joe’s Bar and Grill can’t come to a regulatory hearingthat goes on for five days. Joe has to cook lunch every day. Mostfolks cannot afford the regulatory process. It is an extremelyexpensive process. And I submit that only a utility with a ratebase and captive customers who can pick up those expenses reallycan afford to be in these regulatory proceedings year after yearafter year.” Magruder noted Houston-based airline Continental ismaking a bundle flying people such as herself from Houston toplaces such as Boston; Columbus, OH; San Francisco; etc. “It is anexpensive process to participate.”

And even after a market opens up, such as the Californiaelectricity market, fair competition is not a sure thing, saidMagruder, who spoke at Gas Daily’s conference on LDC restructuringThursday in Houston. “We made a corporate decision that some of youmay have heard about that we’re not going to give away gas andelectricity if the rules don’t make it economic to sell gas andelectricity to customers and be able to make a profit forourselves.” Magruder has lobbied for competition around the countryfor three and a half years, she noted. “What I’ve found is while wemay have lip service in many places to the notion of customerchoice, when you sit down and read the tariffs and when you lookat the rates and when you look at the terms and conditions that areput on the service, it’s customer choice in name only. There’sreally no meaningful choice for many customers in many of theseprograms.”

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