Retail Unbundling - District of Columbia


Status: All residential customers in the District of Columbia are able to choose their own natural gas supplier.


Overview: All residential natural gas customers in the District of Columbia are eligible to participate in a customer choice program through Washington Gas Light, the area's sole natural gas local distribution company (LDC). In February 2001, the Public Service Commission (PSC) gave approval for a full-scale choice program for all D.C. residents. A pilot program had been underway since January 1999 with enrollment peaking at 17,622 in December 2000 then falling to less than 11,000 in the summer of 2001. Participation increased sharply in 2002, with about 26,400 enrolled as of December 2002 (19.5 percent). Participation has generally declined since then, with about 21,600 (16 percent) residential customers enrolled as of December 2003 and about 16,400 (12 percent) as of December 2004. The PSC established a working group in February 2001 to recommend incentives for increased supplier participation, develop licensing and certification procedures for marketers, propose customer protection standards, and develop a consumer education program. The PSC adopted most of the working group’s recommendations in April 2003. Four marketers were actively serving residential customers in December 2004.


All D.C. small commercial customers (using less than 40,000 therms annually) also have full access to customer choice. About 4,120 of the approximately 9,000 small commercial entities in D.C. had enrolled as of December 2004. According to the PSC, there were 11 alternative suppliers serving about one-third of all commercial accounts as of December 2004.


EIA Data: In 2003, the District of Columbia had 136,258 residential and 10,565 commercial customers who consumed 15 and 17 billion cubic feet of natural gas, respectively. The average prices paid for natural gas purchased from the local distribution company by residential and commercial customers were $13.29 and $12.73 per thousand cubic feet, respectively.


 Eligibility/Participation in Retail Choice Programs:


Status as of December 2004: Number of Customers


As Reported by the DC Public Service Commission

Customer Type


Total 2004

Eligible Dec 2004

Participating Dec 2004

Total

Percent of 2004 Total

Total

Percent of Eligible

Percent of 2004 Total

Residential

133,700

133,700

100

16,405

12.0

12.0

Commercial

13,485

13,485

100

4,121

31.0

31.0

Total

147,185

147,185

100

20,526

13.9

13.9

Note: Participation percentages based on EIA customer counts for 2003 are 12 percent for residential customers, 39 percent for commercial customers, and 14 percent for the total (see US Summary table).

 Source: District of Columbia Public Service Commission (December 2004).


District of Columbia: Legislative and Regulatory Actions on Retail Unbundling


Summary: The D.C. Public Service Commission approved a 2-year customer choice pilot program through Washington Gas Light (Washington Gas Light tariff GT96-2) in April 1998 for 13,000 residential customers with enrollment starting in the fall of 1998. In May 1999, the PSC removed the cap on the number of customers who can enroll and allowed customers to sign up at any time. The PSC also approved expansion of the "large commercial" customer pilot program to include those who use more than 40,000 therms per year (the previous criterion was 60,000 therms), and approved a pilot aggregation program for small commercial customers (less than 40,000 therms per year) beginning November 1999. The pilot program for residential customers was made permanent in February 2001, and a working group was formed to address the issue of declining marketer participation. The group was also tasked with developing licensing procedures for marketers, a consumer education plan, and customer protection standards. Most of these recommendations were adopted by the PSC in April 2003.


Regulatory and Legislative Actions

Legislation

3/01

Prevention of Unauthorized Switching of Customer Accounts Natural Gas Accounts Emergency Act of 2001 (D.C. Bill 14-121). Protects DC customers from unauthorized switching of their natural gas accounts, requires customers to give written consent before suppliers can switch accounts and providers, and requires marketers to be licensed by the PSC.

Regulatory Actions

02/04

Blanket Bill Report Approved. PSC approved working group recommendation that Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES) be exempted from minimum billing component provisions in Order 12709, subject to an annual review. WGES must submit a report each December 1 on how the renewal process is working, including the number of renewals and new accounts using the blanket bill program.

Regulatory Actions

11/03

Blanket Bill Report. The GT 96-3 working group filed a report, requested by the PSC, that recommended an exemption from minimum billing component provisions for WGES since the company uses a blanket bill program. Previously, the PSC had rejected WGES’ request for an exemption but referred the issue to the working group for its recommendation.

Regulatory Actions

4/03

New Licensing and Customer Protection Rules for Marketers. Order 12709, GT 96-3. The PSC adopted interim rules and initiatives designed to expand retail competition, license suppliers, protect customers, and improve consumer awareness. Licensing procedures were modeled after those approved (2000) for electricity suppliers and require current certificates of good standing. Customers may be solicited by telephone, radio, newspaper and electronic ads, and in person; and enrollment may be by phone, over the Internet, or by written contract. Suppliers must give customers at least 35-days written notice before terminating a contract and 60-day notice for automatic contract renewals.

 

2/01

Pilot Program Made Permanent. Order 11928, Docket 99, 2-21-01. The PSC also directed that a working group be formed to develop licensing and certification procedures for marketers, recommend incentives for increased supplier participation, develop a consumer education plan, and propose customer protection standards.

 

2/00

Rolling Enrollment for Small Commercial Customer Pilot. On February 16, 2000, the PSC instituted a rolling enrollment for all customers.

 

10/99

Customer Choice Pilot for Small Commercial Customers. Washington Gas Light tariff GT97-3 effective 10/22/99. The PSC extended the deadline to 12/31/99 for enrolling in a 2-year pilot choice program starting 11/1/99 for small commercial customers (those using less than 40,000 therms per year). Participation in the pilot is for at least 1 year with enrollment possible for an additional 1-year period not to extend past 1/2002.

 

5/99

Expansion of Customer Choice Pilot. Washington Gas Light tariff. The PSC removed the cap on the number of customers who can enroll in the choice pilot program so that all residential customers are eligible. The PSC eliminated the enrollment deadline of March 1999 and instead allows customers to enroll at any time. Service is for a term of at least 1 year and not to extend past 3/2001. Marketers participating in the pilot must have in aggregate a minimum of 100 dekatherms of customers' daily contract quantity. The "large commercial" customer pilot program was expanded to include those who use more than 40,000 therms per year (the previous criterion was 60,000 therms). The PSC also approved a pilot aggregation program for small commercial customers (less than 40,000 therms per year) with enrollment scheduled between 8/1/99 and 10/1/99.

 

4/98

Approval of Customer Choice Pilot for 13,000 Residential Customers. Washington Gas Light tariff GT96-2. The PSC approved a 2-year pilot choice program for 13,000 residential D.C. customers beginning 11/1/98. Service under the pilot is for a 1-year term that can be renewed for an additional 1-year period. A customer requesting a return to bundled service must give 1-month notice.

 

2/98

Approval of Customer Choice for D.C. Businesses. Washington Gas Light tariff. The PSC approved customer choice for large commercial customers who consume at least 60,000 therms of gas annually. Third-party supply service is available after 4/1/98 and enrollment is for a minimum of 1 year.

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File last modified: 01/31/2005