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Energy Choice | September 1, 2010

Natural Gas Choice 101

Just like electric choice, people living in states with a competitive or restructured natural gas market can shop for natural gas to better manage their budget. Natural gas prices are known to be volatile, so exploring your options may not be such a bad idea.

Here are a few basic things to keep in mind if you’re interested in finding out what natural gas choice is all about:

  • As Kenny mentioned in his post about electric choice, each state has its own utility commission that regulates utilities, which provide essential services to the public including gas, electric, telecommunications, water, and transportation. If your state offers gas choice programs to residents, you can find more information from the utility commission serving your area as well as access a list of competitive gas suppliers servicing your area. To find your state’s website, select your state on the map provided on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners website (http://www.naruc.org/commissions.cfm).
  • Like electric choice, if you live in a state that offers a competitive natural gas market, you don’t have to choose a new supplier if you don’t want to.
  • If you choose a new natural gas supplier, you will continue to receive reliable, uninterrupted service. Your utility will continue to service all equipment, including all pipelines or meters. And you will still call your local utility company in an emergency situation.
  • Review your current bill to see how much you’ve been paying for natural gas supply. Then review the pricing and plans as well as the terms and conditions that are being offered by a competitive natural gas supplier. If the price is higher than what a competitive supplier is offering, you may want to consider making the switch.
  • But before you make the choice, have a checklist of questions ready while reviewing a supplier’s website. Sometimes you can find these answers on the supplier’s site, but if not, give the customer service department a quick call. I often work with natural gas choice customers living in Ohio. When choosing a natural gas supplier, the Office of the Ohio Consumers Counsel recommends you ask certain questions, provided here:
    • Is there a fee to sign up?
    • Will I be charged a fee if I decide to go back to my local utility company or decide to switch to another natural gas supplier?
    • How long is the contract?
    • How much will I pay (the rate) for natural gas?
    • Is the offer a flat rate for a certain time period or will the price fluctuate?
    • Is there a fee to cancel my contract?
    • How much is the fee to cancel my contract?
    • What happens when my contract expires?
    • Does it automatically renew?
    • If I have a billing problem, whom should I contact?
    • What are the terms and conditions of the contract? (Always obtain and keep a copy of the contract.)
    • What happens if I decide to move before the contract expires?
    • When will my new rate for natural gas start appearing on my bill?

A couple more questions I’d add to the list are:

  • Is the supplier licensed to serve your state?
  • What other areas does the supplier serve? Do they have any experience providing gas services in your state?

Still have questions about natural gas choice? Leave me a comment to let me know. I hope this is helpful!

Constellation NewEnergy, Inc., a subsidiary of Constellation Energy Group, provides electric generation service to residential customers in the PSEG and JCPL service territories of New Jersey. For more information regarding price and environmental characteristics of our New Jersey residential service, click here and for our commercial and industrial service in New Jersey and throughout other markets, click here.

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