Georgia deregulation proved it is in full throttle last week asthe municipality representing the city of Marietta formed analliance with Columbia Energy’s Georgia affiliate, Columbia EnergyRetail Corp. The alliance calls for a 10-year deal with the city ata guaranteed base price of 39.9 cents per therm for one year and acontractual promise to be competitive for the other nine. Themunicipality includes between 30,000 and 40,000 gas customers.

“We chose Columbia because they have a long-standing history inGeorgia, and because of their experience in deregulating markets,”said Chris Browning, a spokesman for Marietta Power, the governmentbody assigned to shop the gas market. “The people at Columbia areinvolved in 15 deregulating markets nationwide, and have a largeportion of the deregulated market throughout the U.S. It was theirreputation that caused us to sign with them.”

Now Marietta citizens have the option of accepting Columbia’soffer through the city, or finding a marketer by themselves. “Ourmarket surveys indicate that we’ll capture somewhere in theneighborhood of 40% of our customer base,” Browning said “I’d liketo think we’ll do better than that, but it will take several monthsbefore our whole customer base signs with one marketer or another.”

If the individual customers do not make a choice, the GeorgiaPublic Service Commission (PSC) will make it for them. Once 33% ofthe state’s gas customers sign with a provider, the PSC will assignthe other 67% of the state on a predetermined basis. “People justcan’t seem to stop switching,” said Atlanta Gas Light (AGL)spokesman Ross Willis.

The state officially began unbundling on Nov. 1. Since then,over 200,000 Georgians have switched to one of 19 GeorgiaPSC-certified gas providers. Willis added that the PSC will startassigning customers once the switching customer total reaches495,000.

John Norris

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