While many people think of electricity when referring to “energy deregulation,” many states have laws that pertain to partial or complete deregulation for natural gas. Georgia is a state that has a deregulated natural gas market for consumers.
Natural Gas Deregulation in Georgia
In 1997, the state of Georgia passed The Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act, partially deregulating the natural gas industry.
Partial deregulation means that some of the utilities within the state could no longer monopolize the market. This was achieved by separating or breaking up services. The delivery of natural gas remained in the hands of the utilities. However, the supply of natural gas was opened up to competition. This means that some residents of Georgia are now better protected when it comes to their natural gas options. They now have the ability to choose who supplies their natural gas.
In Georgia, these suppliers are known as Marketers. Marketers are required to offer rates that include, straight fixed variable pricing, recovery of certain stranded costs, and different methods of rate regulation.
To provide assistance to low income or high-risk customers, the General Assembly also established a regulated provider. This was achieved through the Consumers? Relief Act in 2002.
Benefits of Natural Gas Deregulation in Georgia
There are many benefits to the deregulation of natural gas in Georgia. It allows customers to take better control over the rates they pay by shopping around for the best plans and options. For example, if a customer is currently with one supplier, and they find another that offers a lower price, they can choose that supplier without any interruption in service. Deregulation also gives consumers the flexibility to switch to a company that provides better customer care.
At it’s core, deregulation ensure that consumers in particular areas of Georgia have a right to natural gas services that are:
In addition, senior citizens are eligible for special discounts. Based on annual income, age and a few other factors, customers can receive up to a $14.00 discount on their base charge. This applies to customers of Atlanta Gas Light Company.
Making the Switch
Atlanta Gas Light Company is a utility, which applied to open its business to competition in 1998. This means that they are only responsible for the delivery of natural gas to consumers. It is important to note that the other utility in Georgia, Atmos Energy, has not yet opened its business to this form of competition.
Customers who require natural gas within the state of Georgia need to make sure they live in an area that offers deregulation before they can make the switch. To make this process easier for consumers, there are many companies online, like Electric Choice, which offer free online comparison tools. These comparison tools often simply require a zip code to determine the best supplier rates offered in a specific region or area.
Additional tools and resources are available on the Georgia Public Service Commission website. They provide marketer scorecards that display a numbered score based on the following 3 areas:
- Billing ? score is based on whether or not the customer received a bill, payment arrangements, total of the bill, and late billing.
- Service ? score based on whether or not the consumer could reach customer service, if there were problems with the gas connection or if there was a mistake in disconnection, as well as quality issues.
- Deceptive Marketing ? score is based on whether or not consumer received changes in service or experienced dishonest practices.
The consumer needs to contact the marketer in order to sign up for their supply services. It is possible to contact many marketers via email, phone or written correspondence. Once a contract is signed, the consumer should expect to receive a package in the mail. This package will include all details of the contract such as, terms of service.
In Georgia, switching from one supplier to another depends on the date of the request. If a customer makes the change before the 19th of any month, it is possible that it will take effect on the first of the following month. For example, if the consumer signs up on January 4th, the switch will take place in time for February 1st. If the sign up date is January 24th, then the switch will occur on March 1st.
Natural Gas Providers in Georgia
It is possible for Markers to become certified. This enables them to offer to sell, or sell natural gas within Georgia. There are strict rules outlined on the state?s public utility commission website, as well as existing Applications for Marketers? Certification of Authority. A complete list of certified providers is also available. Consumers should refer to this list when choosing a Marketer. They include the following companies:
- Ecommerce Energy
- Gas South
- Georgia Natural Gas
- Infinite Energy
- Kratos Georgia
- North American Power
- Scana Energy
- Stream Energy
- True Natural Gas
- Walton EMC Natural Gas
Currently, there is only one regulated provider in Georgia. This company is called SCANA Energy. This company offers natural gas to low-income customers as well as customers who are having difficulty signing up with other marketers.
Questions about meter readings, disconnection or billing should be directed to the Marketer. In situations where the Marketer is not providing assistance, customers can contact the Georgia Public Services Commission. It is also up to the consumer to do their research to determine if the supplier will provide them with the best rates and customer support.