Natural gas deregulation costing OH consumers

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Natural gas deregulation is costing Ohioans some serious cash, according to recently released data obtained by the Columbus Dispatch.

The data showed that, despite falling natural gas prices, customers who opted to chose their own provider have paid about $885 million more over the past 15 years than they would have under regulated prices. The gap was highest in 2010, the Dispatch reported, with choice customers paying an average annual premium of $405. The year-to-date estimate for 2012 is $205.

The discrepancy in the program since its introduction in 1997 is largely due to customers signing multi-year contracts designed to hedge against spiking natural gas prices. But rather than shoot up, prices have fallen.

While customers are ultimately responsible for their own energy decisions, it is the responsibility of regulators to promote the common interest in these matters. To that end, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio offers customers an "apples to apples" comparison chart, in order to help those who wish to eschew the standard natural gas provider. PUCO regularly updates the prices of approved natural gas providers statewide. PUCO has declined to comment, as the data is part of a pending case over the future of natural gas deregulation in the state.

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