Studies and Reports
Natural Gas Retail Choice. Utility affiliates hold large market shares in natural gas customer choice programs, raising questions about the extent of true competition, according to a study released on Dec. 15 by the U.S. General Accounting Office. Participation varies by region, however, according to the report, "Energy Deregulation - Status of Natural Gas Customer Choice Programs."
In Pennsylvania, for example, three out of four programs showed very high shares for utility affiliates. The Equitable Gas Co. affiliate served all 42,000 residential customers who participated in the utility's choice program as of Aug. 31, 1998, according to the GAO. As of July 31, the Peoples Gas affiliate served 79 percent of participating residential customers. Only under the Columbia Gas program did the affiliate not serve the largest market share.
In Nebraska, however, the local gas utility sponsoring the state's single program estimated that 70 percent of eligible residential customers had selected an alternate gas provider, while in New York, a local gas utility sponsoring one program reported that no residential customers had selected an alternative supplier.
The GAO counted 43 gas utilities in 16 states having customer choice programs in place. Meanwhile, gas utilities in 11 other states and the District of Columbia either were beginning or considering implementing choice programs. More information is available at the GAO web site, http://www.gao.gov.