The customer is always right.
If politicians knew what was good for them, they’d refuse to open the door when electric and gas industry lobbyists come knocking again. They’d stick with letting large end-users have access to competitive suppliers. They’re the ones who can buy in bulk and actually save more than a penny or two. But that’s where the buck would stop. Residential and small commercial customers don’t want choice. They want their local utility company to provide them with a reliable supply of energy at a fair price regulated by their local PUC. At least, that’s the opinion of some ornery gas customers in Georgia.
Given all the flack it’s caught of late, it may not be too far off before Georgia’s esteemed deregulation program is saddled with the label of “fiasco” and “debacle.” The timing is strikingly similar to California, where that state’s electric restructuring experiment crumbled in the summer of 2000, two years and change after the flawed plan switched on. In Georgia, Atlanta Gas Light’s final unbundling occurred in the summer of 1999. Two-and-
a-half years later, the state legislature is moving ahead with dismantling a portion of its prized 1997 gas deregulation law.
Take a look at some recent letters to the editor of the leading Georgia daily, Atlanta Journal Constitution, and you’ll get a good idea why Governor Roy Barnes and state lawmakers are backtracking on deregulation: