Latrese Brown, a Cusseta [Georgia] resident, gathered a group of people who believe Sumter EMC is ripping them off. “Not only mine but my entire community light bills are outrageous high, they’re more than our mortgages, more than our rent, more than our car note,” complains Brown.
… The citizens of Cusseta went to their county commissioners Tuesday night and asked them to consider bringing in another company.
“You should be able to choose who you’re with, we choose our gas company, we should be able to choose who provides our lights to us because we want to choose our customer service.”
Notice what she said? “We choose our gas company, we should be able to choose who provides our lights …” Georgia is, I think, unique in allowing competitive retail natural gas suppliers to operate. Consumer Latrese Brown has experienced a competitive retail gas market and a regulated monopoly electric utility service, and she concluded she’d like to give competitive retail electricity a try, too.
Greg Crowder, vice president of marketing and administration at Sumter EMC says it’s not Sumter Electric calling the shots. He argues they have not increased rates and that the electric service act decided territories for electric companies.
“It was done to keep from duplicating efforts, two utilities running down the same road to serve the same customer then that’s inefficient,” says Crowder.
Of course Georgia is not overrun with multiple natural gas pipes running down the same road. A single natural gas pipeline company manages the distribution pipeline and provides delivery service. Separately, about 15 or so competing retail natural gas suppliers offer consumers a variety of fixed-price or variable-price contract offerings and other terms.
It is not too complicated to have a single wire running down the street and yet multiple retailers delivering power over that single wire.
… And, the cause for the high bills is nothing more than the heaters reaction to the extreme temperatures, “the heating load is what caused the high bills, we’ve seen it before.”
The proximate cause of the unexpectedly high bills was the much cooler than normal weather experienced this winter. Nothing unusual about occasionally experiences unusually cold weather. What seemed noteworthy about the news story was that consumers facing unexpectedly high bills were not demanding regulators take direct action to reduce electric rates. Rather, they sought protection through competition, just like they already enjoy for retail natural gas prices.