Columbia Retail Energy plans to enter Virginia market

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

Before the end of the year, some residential and small commercial users of natural gas in Virginia will have another choice of a supplier.

IGS Energy has received a license from the State Corporation Commission to compete as a supplier for the 200,000 customers currently served by Columbia Gas of Virginia Inc.  They are located in areas that include much of Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and Southwest Virginia. 

IGS, based out of Dublin, Ohio, will operate under the name of Columbia Retail Energy. It already supplies natural gas to customers in seven states: Ohio, Michigan Indiana, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. It decided to compete for business in Virginia, because there isn’t a lot of competition here for the commodity, said Larry Friedeman, vice president of choice markets.

“There is an opportunity in Virginia,” Friedeman told Virginia Business. “We want to create a more robust market here.”  According to him, the company plans to start making offers to customers over the next month. 

If they opt for Columbia Retail Energy as their supplier, they would continue to be billed and serviced by Columbia Gas, a regulated utility in Virginia.  Since suppliers are not bound by the restrictions of a utility, they can buy and sell natural gas on the open market and offer a variety or rate options, including fixed prices — anywhere from 6 to 18 months —  and summer and winter pricing, explained Friedeman.

IGS, a private company in business for more than 20 years, provides gas to more than 800,000 customers.T he license the company obtained from the SCC also includes the service area for the Washington Gas Light Co., which operates in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.

Since natural gas was deregulated in the 1980s, many regulated natural gas utilities have opted to give customers a choice, because this frees up some of their capacity as a host provider, says Friedeman.  “There really are a number of reasons why companies support choice … Over the long run, it benefits the customer.” 

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