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City mulls switch in gas vendor

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Columbus officials are debating switching natural-gas services to Indianapolis-based marketing company ETC ProLiance to cut costs.

The city currently gets its natural gas from Evansville-based provider Vectren, but preliminary research shows switching services could save thousands in costs annually.

City attorney Jeff Logston said switching energy providers at City Hall, the fire stations and Animal Care Services show annual savings of nearly 15 percent.

“It’s savings to the bottom line,” he said. “We are still doing (research) for other analysis of utilities and the parks department.”

The topic came up at a Board of Works meeting when city department heads were talking about ways to cut costs.

Logston said the savings would be close to $7,000 a year for the three types of facilities researched already, and could be more once all testing is done.

In June, Dallas-based company Energy Transfer Partners bought ETC ProLiance from Vectren.

ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado would not comment about the specifics of a deal with the city of Columbus, but said her company works with clients to seek the best possible natural-gas price available based on a customer’s requirements.

If the city does buy its natural-gas utility services through ETC ProLiance, Vectren would still provide delivery through its existing system.

“They buy natural gas and transport it through Vectren infrastructure,” Logston said.

Vectren spokeswoman Chase Kelley said if the city decides to combine all facilities on one natural gas utility bill, instead of separate bills for each building, it could save money.

Kelley said other cities and school corporations have used the same method to save money over time.

“Large industrial customers have the ability to buy their gas from other sources because they’re large volume consumers,” she said.

“What the city may be doing is aggregating to make themselves like an industrial customer.”

Vectren charges for both delivery and the natural gas itself. The city would still pay Vectren for the cost of delivery because it still owns and operates the infrastructure.

Vectren is required to buy natural gas at fluctuating prices that must

be approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, but companies such as ETC ProLiance can buy natural gas in bulk at fixed prices, Kelley said.

Logston said the impact and savings are great for taxpayers, but there’s still a lot of research to do before any decisions are made.

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