February 2007
Your Most Frequently Asked Natural Gas Questions, Answered

Q: How does Walton EMC Natural Gas decide how much to charge customers?

A: Our goal is to be the lowest price marketer every month, and we have been for the last six months. But our prices, like most marketers, are directly related to the national price of gas. The market for gas changes every single day, moment-by-moment, and hour-by-hour. It trades just like stock. We set our prices based on the market.

Need to call us for something? No problem. Our in-state call center is one of the best in the industry.

Q: How is it that Walton EMC Natural Gas has some of the lowest rates each month?

A: We are owned by Walton EMC, an electric cooperative. Walton EMC is a very fiscally responsible company, and we operate the same way. We maintain low overhead. We count on word of mouth for most of our advertising. Keeping our expenses low allows us to pass lower prices on to you, the customer.

We pride ourselves on our straightforward rates. We don't offer gimmicks, like gift cards or other incentives, which increase your rates. The marketers that offer these things have to pay for it somehow, and they pay for it with a higher per therm rate.

Q: How should I choose between fixed and variable?

A: It depends on how much risk can you can tolerate. If you don't want to be at any risk, select a fixed rate. But remember, when you lock in, you are making a 12-month commitment, and you should only choose this option if you are willing to uphold that commitment.

If you are looking for the cheapest rate over the long term, historically it is best to choose the variable rate. With variable, you run the risk that you could have a high bill in a single month or months, but the overall average is generally lower.

Q: If I choose the fixed rate, when should I lock in?

A: Whenever the fixed price gets to a point that you would feel comfortable and wouldn't be anxious to go through the winter at that price, lock in. Never try to wait until you get the lowest possible price. We don't know when that will be and you don't know when that will be—no one can predict the future.

Q: If I lock into a fixed rate and prices drop drastically, is there any way I can change my rates while I'm under contract?

A: We consider these contracts 12-month commitments for us and for the customer. In an instance where the price changes dramatically or if you feel that you have to change rates, there is a $50 early termination fee. When we offered you the fixed price, we purchased gas for you for the year at that price. The $50 fee helps us recover some of the loss we incur when we sell higher priced gas to you at a lower rate.

Q: Some gas marketers offer introductory rates. Why doesn't Walton offer these?

A: We don't offer introductory rates because we want to offer the lowest rates to all our customers every single month. We don't think it's fair to give a lower rate to our newer customers than our loyal customers.

Q: I wish that my gas bill could be more consistent all year without the spikes. Does Walton have any options?

A: We have levelized billing, which is available to customers who have a 12-month history with us. With levelized billing, you pay the average of your gas bill for the previous 12 months. It rolls each month, so your bill may go up or down a little, but the impact of high bills is dampened by the 12-month average. It's not like flat rate plans, which allow you to pay the same rate every month, and then require you to “true up,” or pay the difference between what you pay for and what you use, at the end of the year. Because your bill is a rolling average, there is never a true up to pay—you pay for the gas you use, and that's it. If you are interested in levelized billing and you have been a customer for 12 months, just give us a call to get levelized billing started.

Q: Why do I get a base charge in the summer even though I'm not using much, or any, gas?

A: The cost to maintain pipes and deliver gas doesn't disappear in the summer, so, even though your base charge is lower in summer, AGL must still charge for this.

Q: What is your outlook on natural gas prices? Do you think they will go up or down?

A: Natural gas is a traded commodity, like gold or corn. The market is subject to many things that could affect it, like wars, weather, or other events—these drive the price of all commodities, not just gas, up and down. Supply disruptions like Hurricane Katrina are unpredictable, and therefore there is no way to ever really know what will happen with the prices, just like you cannot know for sure what will happen with any stock price.

We don't play a guessing game when we buy gas for our customers. We buy our gas based on the time each month.

Q: When prices are low, why don't you buy all of my gas then and store it?

A: Most of the gas that is used flows almost directly from the source (for most of you that's the Gulf of Mexico) to your home or business through the pipes. All of Walton and Atlanta Gas Light's storage would only supply Georgia with enough natural gas for about 10 days. Therefore, there is not enough storage for us to do this.

Q: Where does Walton EMC Natural Gas get their gas, and how is it any different from other marketers?

A: It's not different. Most of the gas purchased for Georgia comes out of the Gulf of Mexico. Walton EMC Natural Gas purchases the gas directly from the suppliers. We do not purchase gas from AGL, because AGL does not buy gas.

Q: How can I cut my gas bill?

A: Every person has the opportunity to impact his or her gas bill. Making smart choices with regards to energy conservation and weatherization can noticeably lower your bill. For instance, you can make a difference this winter by installing a programmable thermostat and lowering the temperature at night and while you are away, wearing warmer clothing around the house and sealing air leaks. You can substantially reduce your bill if you do any or all of these things. Visit waltonemcnaturalgas.com or atlantagaslight.com for more energy saving tips.

Installing a programmable thermostat is one of many ways to reduce your gas bill.

Q: If I call Walton EMC Gas with a question or a problem with my gas service, will I be put on hold for a long time?

A: No. Walton EMC is an industry leader in customer service. When you call, you'll talk to a real person in Georgia, not a machine. And Walton does not offshore their call center. In fact, the call center is in Walton County, and the representatives are employees of Walton EMC Natural Gas—they are not contractors. Therefore, we can provide the best customer service in the business—including quick response times.

Q: How do I know if I should call Walton EMC Natural Gas or AGL?

A: Only call Atlanta Gas Light if you smell gas. Otherwise, always call Walton EMC Natural Gas.

Q: What should I do if I think I have a gas leak?

A: Have everyone leave the house. Do not use any devices that might create a spark, like light switches, phones, flashlights, or electric appliances, because a spark could ignite the gas. Go to a nearby phone and call AGL at 770/907-4231 or 877/427-4321. Do not reenter the building until you are told to do so.

Q: I have Walton EMC Natural Gas at home, but not at work. Can you serve businesses, too?

A: Yes. Walton EMC serves all of Georgia, including commercial, industrial, and residential accounts. You can call Philip Peters at 770/500-5256 for any questions about your commercial gas needs.