Whether moving to the Atlanta area for the first time or considering locations for a business, owners have a wide variety of choices when selecting from natural gas providers. Both residential and commercial customers benefit from the competition among Atlanta natural gas providers, but a brief overview of the system will be helpful to residents and business owners navigating the variety of providers of natural gas service.
The State of Georgia has a tiered natural gas system with three options for service depending upon the area of the state in which you live. Atlanta natural gas providers include investor-owned distribution companies, natural gas marketing providers, and 84 municipal gas systems.
More than a decade ago Georgia legislators approved the Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act, allowing the two investor-owned gas utilities in the state to split the function of gas supply from distribution for the purposes of increased competition and lower prices for gas service. One of the two investor-owned corporations filed plans to become subject to deregulation, and officially ended supplying and servicing gas delivery. This decision permitted gas marketers to enter the marketplace to compete for sales and customer services.
Since deregulation, natural gas providers in the Atlanta area have increased to meet the need for gas utility services to the metro as well as other parts of the state. The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates the gas industry and certifies natural gas providers to distribute and service local gas to residential and commercial customers in the area. To help owners select from among multiple distributors, the PSC produces a gas marketers pricing chart that provides a baseline comparison of all plans in a single table.
Each of the certified gas marketers are distributing resources from the same investor-owned utility company, which is now focused solely on the acquisition of natural gas and maintaining the infrastructure required to distribute effectively. The second investor-owned utility company retains the marketing and distribution rights for its services.
Gas marketer rate plans are generally listed in four categories: senior fixed rate, senior variable rate, variable rate, and fixed rate. Senior citizens are required to qualify for the senior discount through Atlanta Gas Light Company’s program, which allows them to choose a senior rate from any provider. In general, each company will charge a base rate that varies slightly according to the natural gas provider. The price, typically listed in a per-therm dollar amount, will be set based upon the customer’s demand for gas. Pricing formulas and rates vary from provider to provider, and fees charged in addition to the rate, such as a pipeline fee, can differ as well.
Natural gas providers in Atlanta utilize variable and fixed rate plans to provide flexibility and choice for customers. Variable rate plans modify the price per therm based upon the current market price for natural gas at a given time each month. The advantage to a variable rate is that as prices vary, the customer will never pay more than what the gas is worth at that point in time. Fixed rate plans provide customers with the comfort of having a fixed rate per therm for an extended period of time, generally for a one year period.