ATLANTA — The Georgia Public Service Commission voted 4-1 on Tuesday to allow Atlanta Gas Light to spend $11.5 million collected in part from its industrial customers to finance the construction of new compressed natural gas pumps for fueling stations around the state.
Atlanta Gas Light executives said the program is necessary to seed a market for compressed natural gas vehicles by removing a barrier to driving them: a lack of publicly accessible gas stations. Of the roughly 20 stations that sell compressed natural gas, most are owned by private companies or governments and not open to the general public.
One company that already sells the gas opposed the idea, arguing that allowing a regulated utility to spend its customers’ money to finance the program would discourage private investors from building their own pumps. By law, the state’s elected utility commissioners could have used those same funds to expand natural gas pipelines, give emergency energy assistance to the poor or provide rebates to the utility’s commercial and residential customers.
Under the program, Atlanta Gas Light will pay for the pumping equipment at around a dozen stations.
Money raised at the stations would subsidize the leasing of pumps to residential customers who want to fill natural gas vehicles at home.
The utility aims to rent the necessary pumps to residents for around $50 to $60 per month.
The pumps work slowly, filling a car in a matter of hours compared to just minutes at a commercial station.