To save customers money, though, most of the suppliers admit they will only break even, if that. In Iowa, various gas companies actually lost money, said Richard Itteilag, a vice president of network sales with Utilicorp.
"The name of the game is volume," Itteilag said. "We want to be here for the long term, and we're also looking to use gas sales as a springboard to sell programs such as carbon monoxide detectors and home security systems."
Each company is quick to tout its competitive advantages as well. Utilicorp maintains that its experience -- 10 years in the gas brokering business -- and buying capability give it the edge. Washington Gas and BNG cite their local name recognition and commitment, service expertise and track record. Horizon contends that as the new kid in town, it will try harder to win customer loyalty.
One advantage all will have is the absence of one expected participant, Enron Capital & Trade Resources, an affiliate of a giant Houston-based utility company.
"We feel the rules established would not allow us to operate economically," sad Terrie James, an Enron spokeswoman. "The big issue for us is that we feel pilot programs should be established that create level playing fields."
Pub Date: 9/03/96