The Ohio Public Utilities Commission has approved Columbia Gas of Ohio's "Customer Choice" program, which allows customers to purchase natural gas from other suppliers starting in April (Case No. 96-1113-GA-ATA).
About 170,000 customers in the Toledo area will be eligible to participate, making it one of the largest pilot programs in the nation. The utility anticipates that the program eventually will be available to all of its customers.
In its order, the PUC says that customer aggregation is central to the program, and the minimum pool that each marketer must maintain is 200 customers or a commercial pool with at least 20,000 MCF of annual throughput. Once a customer has joined a pool, the customer will have the option to switch to another customer pool by paying a $5 switching fee.
According to Columbia Gas spokesman Steve Jablonski, the company has taken a "hands-off approach" to the marketers, and at an informational meeting on the choice program, about ten to 12 companies had expressed interest in participating. Columbia will remain the supplier of last resort for customers who do not choose an alternate supplier.