Robert Best, Chairman, President and CEO of Atmos Energy
Mark Hand is senior editor at Public Utilities Fortnightly.
Will Atmos remain a gas‑only utility company?
You never say never. Our strategy to date has been to stick with natural gas. We serve a lot of small and medium‑size communities in our eleven states. We haven't taken on more than we can deal with. We started in 1983 with 300,000 customers in West Texas and when we complete the Mississippi Valley acquisition, we'll be 1.7 million customers.
Convergence does work for some companies. But I think you've also seen some companies that have tried the combination of electric with gas and it hasn't paid off for them. Our history has been to grow our portfolio of natural gas distribution assets through acquisition. We've been a patient acquirer. We want to make good acquisitions.
How would you describe unbundling in the states Atmos does business in?
We certainly have seen unbundling go at a slow pace. The Georgia experience, the California situation, there are a lot of elements that caused those things to happen. I think for us, the regulators in almost every state we're in have taken a very go‑slow approach. The crucial question is, will consumers save money? You have to have some proof that over a longer period of time that it will make the market more efficient and that consumers will save money over what they would have paid if the regulatory structure had remained as is.
What does the future hold for gas unbundling across the country?