Georgia Electric Consumers Want Competition to Help Protect Against Higher Prices, Just Like They Have for Natural Gas

Michael Giberson

From WTVM-9:

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.

4 thoughts on “Georgia Electric Consumers Want Competition to Help Protect Against Higher Prices, Just Like They Have for Natural Gas

  1. One of the problems with trying to provide Georgians with retail choice in electric service is that there isn’t an RTO wholesale market in the SE United States that could support retail choice. Retail choice has flourished only in areas with RTOs.

  2. Actually retail choice has existed in electricity in Georgia for many years. But it is a one-time choice made when an account is established. The applicant can choose any utility in the state. The key is that Georgia’s transmission network is jointly owned by the IOUs, the munis, and the co-ops. All co-owners have rights to use the transmission system, and there is a pooling arrangement that facilitates transactions. Of course, a one-time choice isn’t exactly free-wheeling competition, and it isn’t available at the residential level.

  3. Ms. Brown does not get to choose her natural gas supplier, as there is no natural gas in the area. The gas companies she refers to are propane suppliers.

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