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Q. What is natural gas customer choice and how is it related to your bills?

If you look at your WGL bill*, you will see two main services: distribution service and natural gas supply service. Customer choice means that you can choose the provider of your natural gas supply service. Market forces determine the prices of the natural gas supply, not the Public Service Commission (Commission). If you buy your natural gas supply from WGL, the price is called the Purchased Gas Charge (PGC). The PGC covers the costs to WGL to procure natural gas as well as the costs to store the natural gas and transport the natural gas to the service territory. The Commission audits WGL's PGC at least twice a year and WGL is not allowed to earn a profit on its PGC. Meanwhile, the Commission sets the distribution service charges through rate case proceedings because WGL is the sole provider of these services. In other words, WGL is the only company that owns the pipes and mains in the District to deliver natural gas to homes and businesses.

There are four (4) Customer Choice programs, covering all residential and commercial customers. The first program was implemented in 1988 for interruptible customers. The second program, for large commercial customers, was approved by the Commission in January 1998 in GT 96-2 and it was implemented in April 1998. The third program is for residential customers. The Commission approved it as a pilot program in GT 96-3 in April 1998 and it was implemented in January 1999. The Commission approved it as a full-scale program in 2001. The fourth program serves small commercial customers. The Commission approved the program in GT 97-3 in April 1999 as a pilot program and the Commission approved it as a full-scale program in 2002.

 
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Q. Who are the suppliers and how can you contact them?

Currently, three competitive suppliers and WGL accept new residential customers. They are:
 
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Q. What are their prices?

The Commission provides the prices WGL and competitive suppliers offer new residential customers on its website. You should compare WGL's PGC with the prices of the competitive suppliers. These prices are updated on a monthly basis. The following links provide information on products and prices:
http://www.dcpsc.org/pdf_files/hottopics/Compare_NGSuppliers_Offers.pdf*
http://www.dcpsc.org/pdf_files/hottopics/gas_comm_history.pdf*


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Q. Please compare their bills.

The impact of natural gas supply prices on your bills depends on the amount of your natural gas usage. The more you use, the greater will be the bill impact. Sample usage amounts and corresponding bills for WGL and the competitive suppliers are available on the Commission's website at the following link:
http://www.dcpsc.org/pdf_files/customerchoice/gas/Gas_Bill_Comparison.pdf*


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Q. How can you calculate your own bill?

The Commission has also developed calculators that enable you to estimate your bill impact based on your own usage, which is provided on your WGL bill. The calculators are available on the Commission's website at the following links:
http://www.dcpsc.org/customerchoice/whatis/gas/calculator_annualbill_gas.shtm(WGL)
http://www.dcpsc.org/customerchoice/whatis/gas/Alternative_calculator_gas.shtm(competitive provider)

If you don't have Internet access, you can call the Commission on 202-626-5120 and someone will calculate it for you after you give them your usage.


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Q. What questions should you ask to determine if you should switch suppliers?

The terms (e.g., duration of prices) and composition of the prices vary among suppliers, including WGL. To help you select your supplier and to ensure you are making comparisons on an apples-to-apples basis, you should take the time to ask each supplier, including WGL, the following questions.
  • What is your commodity charge?
  • Does this price include a "Balancing Charge"?1
    • If not, how much is the Balancing Charge?
    • If "Variable", what is it based on?
    • If "Fixed", for how long?
  • Do I have to sign a contract?
  • Is there a penalty for switching before the end of the contract? If yes, how much is the fee?
  • Is there a minimum charge?
  • How will I be billed? (Separately or on WGL bill)
1 - WGL bills competitive commodity natural gas suppliers a Balancing Charge to recover a portion of WGL's costs for providing certain services.


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Q. What should you do to keep your bills affordable?

Consider joining WGL's budget payment plan. It allows you to spread the costs and hence payments over 12 months and pay a fixed amount each month. This means you will pay less than the actual monthly cost in the high usage winter months and you will pay more than the actual monthly cost in the off-season. WGL will assess your usage and payment information towards the end of the 12-month billing period to determine if an adjustment to your monthly payment is required. Even if you choose this approach, it is still in your interest to keep your usage and costs as low as possible to minimize the amount of the monthly charges.

If you are a low-income customer, there is additional help. You can apply to the District Department of the Environment's Energy Office (DDOE) for a discount on your winter (November through April) bills through WGL's Commission-mandated Residential Essential Service (RES) and for federal assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). DDOE also has other energy efficiency programs, including the installation of conservation measures in your home. Call DDOE's Hotline on 202-673-6750 for more information.


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Q. What can you do to keep your winter natural gas bills affordable?

The Commission urges consumers to seek ways to use natural gas wisely by implementing a number of energy efficiency measures, some of which can be relatively low cost. These measures will be all the more cost effective if the winter is colder than normal. In addition, you can find out if you are eligible to participate in programs offered by the District Department of the Environment's Energy Office ("DDOE").

No Cost Tips
  • Lower thermostat to 68 degrees during the day if the home is occupied. Set back the temperature at night and when not at home.
  • Dress warmly when at home.
  • Fix leaky faucets and bleed radiators.
  • Change and clean furnace filters on a monthly basis or as per the maintenance manual.
  • Keep shades and draperies open during the day.
  • Turn natural gas water heater down to 120 degrees.
  • Remove window air conditioners; if this is not feasible, put a cover on the unit.

Low Cost Tips
  • Install a setback thermostat.
  • Install plastic over windows and doors to minimize leaks of warm air.
  • Seal leaks around windows, doors, and other openings such as pipes and ducts with caulking or weather-stripping.
  • Wrap hot water heater in a fire resistant cover.
  • Replace broken or cracked glass.

Medium to High Cost Tips
  • Install high efficiency natural gas boiler or furnace.
  • Install new high efficiency windows and/or doors.
  • Install storm windows.
  • Install attic insulation.
  • When replacing a water heater, choose an energy efficiency model.
Natural Gas Safety Tip - Never use burners or ovens for home-heating purposes because they can lead to the production of carbon monoxide and fire hazards.



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Q. What assistance is the Commission providing customers?

The Commission has taken the following steps to inform the public of the outlook for natural gas prices* and to help customers find ways to save energy. They include:

  • Preparing and distributing fact sheets and energy savings tips throughout the District including a special mailing to Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC) and civic associations.
  • Speaking at community forums including ANCs and civic associations meetings. Call 202-626-5120 if you would like to engage a speaker from the Commission.
  • Publicizing prices and energy savings information on the Commission's website - www.dcpsc.org so consumers can make informed choices.
  • Implementing certain temporary provisions for the 2008-2009 winter heating season (ending March 31, 2009) to assist customers in paying their natural gas bills.
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