Five of the proposed stations are in metro Atlanta, one each in Macon and Valdosta. Two groups want their own stations in Savannah.
The firms seek part of $11.6 million the Georgia Public Service Commission is making available for the station network. The goal is to jumpstart consumers' use of alternative-fuel vehicles by creating ample opportunities for them to refill their tank wherever they drive away from home.
The first step is to build the stations, mainly for commercial fleet owners initially.
To qualify, the developers must have commitments in hand for at least 20 percent of the fuel available. They also have to demonstrate the wherewithal to secure the land and local zoning as well as build the station. Atlanta Gas Light will own the equipment.
They have 90 days to iron out the details so the first stations can open next summer.
Commissioner Doug Everett, who began pushing Atlanta Gas Light to build fueling stations as early as mid-2009, said Wednesday that he's happy with the progress now.
"My goal, and the goal of my fellow commissioners, was to encourage economic development in Georgia and to support a program where vehicle owners and station owners made investments under market conditions where supply and demand would occur simultaneously," he said. "Georgia is on its way to becoming a leader in (compressed-natural-gas) activity in the Southeast without a negative impact on Atlanta Gas Light's ratepayers."
The money the commission is offering comes from its Universal Service Fund, an account the utility uses for expansion.
With the price of natural gas roughly half of what it costs in gasoline for the same mileage, the timing may be ripe for a network of fueling stations, according to Atlanta Gas Light President Steve Lindsey.
"The response we received indicates strong support for natural gas to fuel vehicles in Georgia and has the potential to make CNG much easier for many Georgians to access," he said. "The domestically abundant supply of natural gas makes it a great time to invest in CNG vehicles to save money, decrease dependence on foreign oil and reduce emissions."