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Columbia Gas of Ohio nonresidential natural gas rates

In January 2013, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved an agreement that establishes a procedure for Columbia Gas of Ohio to no longer offer its standard choice offer (SCO) to nonresidential customers who are not receiving natural gas from a competitive supplier. Before any changes are to take effect, the agreement set a choice program participation rate of 70 percent from nonresidential customers.

History of natural gas competition

The Ohio General Assembly passed the Natural Gas Alternative Regulation law in June 1996, which set customer choice as a state goal in the area of natural gas services. In March 1997, the PUCO adopted rules to implement this alternative regulation legislation later that year.

In 2009, the PUCO approved an agreement establishing Columbia’s standard service offer (SSO). Under the SSO, default retail customers were supplied by competitive natural gas suppliers at market rates based upon PUCO-approved auctions.

In 2011 the SSO evolved into the Standard Choice Offer. The SCO provided the same market-based rates but transitioned customers into a direct relationship with their supplier, instead of Columbia acting as a go-between.

In January 2013 the PUCO approved an agreement to allow Columbia to end SCO pricing for nonshopping, nonresidential customers. The PUCO found Ohio’s nonresidential customers will benefit from an enhanced competitive marketplace by additional suppliers entering the marketplace with more varied product offerings, allowing customers more options to control their utility bills. Nonresidential shopping levels must meet 70 percent before any change may be made.

Current shopping statistics

What will change?

When Columbia’s shopping levels for nonresidential customers reach 70 percent, the following April all nonresidential customers who have not selected a natural gas supplier will be served by a competitive supplier under a Monthly Variable Rate (MVR).  The MVR is priced at the closing New York Mercantile Exchange price plus the supplier’s price to service its customers.  

Does this affect Columbia’s residential customers?

No. A separate application and PUCO approval would be required to extend this pricing methodology to residential customers.  However, in addition to the required level of choice participation being met, Columbia may not file an application extend this pricing methodology to residential customers until at least 22 months after its potential exit for nonresidential customers and residential shopping levels have reached 70 percent. 

Does this affect natural gas distribution rates?

No, all customers pay the same distribution rate for the delivery of natural gas supplies to their homes and businesses. Columbia Gas of Ohio continues to deliver natural gas to all customers, offer payment plans, such as budget billing and handle all emergency and customer service calls.

How do I shop for my natural gas?

The PUCO wants consumers to know their rights and options when it comes to natural gas. While the PUCO cannot guarantee that bills will decrease by participating in energy choice, energy choice gives consumers a greater variety of pricing plans and allows the consumer more freedom to determine what the best option for their household or business is. Energy choice is the best of both worlds. Participation not only gives consumers the freedom to work with a supplier and take advantage of unique product offerings but also the peace of mind that they will still receive the same high level of service from the local utility. Those nonresidential customers interested in choosing a competitive supplier can visit the PUCO’s website to find a competitive natural gas supplier here.

What if I don’t shop for my natural gas service?

Should Columbia remove its standard choice offer, choice-eligible customers that do not enroll with a supplier will be assigned to a supplier at the MVR price posted monthly on the PUCO’s Apples to Apples chart. The MVR pricing for such customers will be based on the closing NYMEX price, plus the supplier’s price to service its customers. 

More information

Case docket