Ohio natural gas customers could soon be bombarded by retail marketers with offers to purchase natural gas from them instead of their utility.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is considering allowing utilities to stop buying natural gas for customers through a wholesale auction and requiring families to buy from third-party marketers who sell directly to customers.
While some claim retail competition would keep prices low, it would actually result in higher bills for most customers.
The executive director of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, Dave Rinebolt, says currently there’s no mark-up with utilities selling natural gas.
Columbia gas has been offering its customers the choice to use a retail marketer since 1998.
Rinebolt says a 2010 audit found participating customers paid nearly 545 million dollars more for natural gas when buying from marketers rather than purchasing directly from the utility.
He says marketers simply want to sell gas at the highest price they can get, but large scale auctions produce the lowest price.
Rinebolt says the P-U-C-O has already received letters from consumers opposed to the proposed changes.
He says all natural gas customers interested in keeping their bills low should speak up.
To add to the problem, Rinebolt says offers from unregulated marketers can be confusing to customers and some end up paying a higher-price than they should.
Dominion East Ohio has filed a motion with the P-U-C-O to exit the auction, known as the “merchant function.”
If approved, other Ohio utilities could follow suit.