Originally created 05/18/99

Natural gas election deadline nearing



About 44,200 Augusta natural gas users -- 60 percent of the local market -- have switched their service to one of the new gas marketers.

That leaves nearly 30,000 local consumers less than 86 days to choose a gas supplier before facing random assignment, according to a top Atlanta Gas Light official.

"You will have to choose before Aug. 11 of this year, or one will be chosen for you," AGL Chief Operating Officer Paula Rosput told a gathering of the Augusta Rotary Club on Monday.

Under deregulation law, AGL will stop selling natural gas and exist solely as a regulated pipeline transmission company. All gas in Georgia will be retailed at open market prices by about 20 state-certified companies.

Consumers who haven't left AGL for a new company by the deadline will be assigned one randomly by the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Ms. Rosput said the Augusta market is being dominated by five companies: SCANA Energy, Shell Energy Services, Georgia Natural Gas Services, United Gas Management of Georgia and Peachtree Natural Gas.

However, other companies have signed up customers in Augusta, including Columbia Energy Services, Duke Energy, E-prime, Energy America, GasKey, Infinite Energy and Reliant Energy Retail (formerly NorAm Energy).

Of the top five players, only SCANA Energy and Georgia Natural Gas Services (a sister company of AGL), have disclosed so far their Augusta market share, reporting approximately 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Shell and United Gas Management did not respond to The Augusta Chronicle's request for market share information during the week of May 10-14.

Peachtree President Deborah Latham said she did not have local figures but that the company has an 8 percent market share statewide.

Under random assignment, gas companies would receive a percentage of customers proportionate to their market share, meaning a company serving 30 percent of a given market would receive 30 percent of the customers assigned randomly.

Damon Cline covers business for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3486.