The Centre for the Advancement of Energy Markets (CAEM) has recognised Georgia's efforts to deregulate its natural gas market with the bestowal of the Phoenix Award. CAEM cited Georgia's efforts to overcome initial implementation impediments, and its emergence as the most competitive retail gas market in the world, as reasons for the choice.
Georgia deregulated its natural gas market in 1998, and customers were not allowed to remain with Atlanta Gas Light, the existing utility. Gas marketers moved in to the state and made enormous efforts to sign up customers – after a certain number had been signed up state-wide, the remaining customers were allocated to the marketers in proportion to the number they themselves has signed up. The result was poor service and soaring gas prices, until lawmakers passed various customer service measures in 2002, which are still in force and monitored.
Natural gas prices in the state are still high, and members of the CAEM concede that residential consumers have not benefited from competition nearly as much as have C&I customers. But the state believes that the award, which recognises the steps taken to minimise the problems caused by competition, has been well earned.