Category Archives: utility

Richard Meyer Natural Gas Market Indicators: April 15, 2015

A new study from Washington State University shows that methane emissions from U.S. natural gas distribution systems are 70 percent below current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates of those emissions. Based on data collected from pipeline leaks, meter and regulator stations, and city gates within 13 utility systems across the country, the study’s authors found that emissions from local distribution companies (LDCs) have decreased over the past 20 years due to upgrades, changes in pipeline materials, and better leak detection and survey methods.

As we often report here in the “Market Indicators” blog articles, industry experience and performance exists on a spectrum – one that is often improving in terms of practices and technologies, as well as the regulatory precepts that oversee these activities. This study demonstrates improvements to gas utility system safety and environmental performance, but it is also part of a larger industry trend of better overall performance.

Visit this link to download the full Natural Gas Market Indicators report. Topics covered in this week’s report include: Reported Prices, Weather, Working Gas in Underground Storage, Natural Gas Production, Shale Gas, Rig Counts, Pipeline Imports and Exports, and LNG Markets.

Please direct questions and comments to Chris McGill at cmcgill@aga.org or Richard Meyer at rmeyer@aga.org.

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Lisa O'Leary Advocates Urge Congress to Increase LIHEAP Funding

Nearly 200 advocates from across the United States converged on Capitol Hill last week to support responsible funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) sponsored LIHEAP Action Day 2015 along with member companies of the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Edison Electric Institute. The annual day-long event is aimed at building awareness for LIHEAP, a federal block grant program providing financial assistance to low and fixed-income individuals for fuel and utility bills, as well as low-cost weatherization and energy-related home repairs.

Representatives from Entergy and Atmos Energy met with Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) staff to discuss LIHEAP funding. Photo Credit: Entergy

Representatives from Entergy and Atmos Energy met with Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) staff to discuss LIHEAP funding. Photo Credit: Entergy

According to NEAUC, nearly 300 meetings took place between LIHEAP advocates and members of Congress and their staff, to discuss the need for at least $4.7 billion in LIHEAP funding for FY2016. Advocates in D.C. and throughout the country also took to social media to share important messages about LIHEAP by using #LIHEAPAction.

After many years of underfunding LIHEAP, Congress funded the program at $5.1 billion in FY2009 and FY2010. Since then, funding has declined by almost $1.7 billion and recipients have seen their assistance grants reduced by nearly $95, impacting the program’s effectiveness.  The average grant was estimated to cover less than half of the average home heating costs for a household this winter, meaning that many low-income families and seniors had fewer resources available to meet other basic needs.

This winter was especially hard-hitting in the northeast and southeast with record-breaking snowfall and cold temperatures, serving as a stark reminder of why the LIHEAP program is so critical. Here are just a few other reasons:

  • More than 35 million U.S. households meet LIHEAP’s federal eligibility criteria, yet only 6.8 million households were helped in 2014.
  • States and their charitable partners can serve households earning up to 150 percent of Federal poverty guidelines or 60 percent of median income. For a three-person family in the U.S., that’s less than $29,685, yet most LIHEAP households earn less than that amount.
  • Even with LIHEAP funding at $5.1 billion, the amount was only enough to assist 1 in 5 eligible Americans.
Rep. Peter Welch was presented with this year’s NEUAC Extra Mile award. Photo Credit: http://welch.house.gov/

Rep. Peter Welch was presented with this year’s NEUAC Extra Mile award. Photo Credit: http://welch.house.gov/

LIHEAP Action Day concluded with a Congressional reception and the presentation of the NEUAC Extra Mile award given to Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), recognizing him for his longtime support of the program. In a letter to the House Appropriations Committee penned by Rep. Welch and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), more than 145 lawmakers stressed the critical importance of full funding of LIHEAP.

AGA had to opportunity to interview several advocates in attendance of the LIEAHP Action Day Breakfast. Stay tuned for links to those video interviews next week.

Posted in energy, Natural Gas, people, utility, winter heating | Leave a comment

Lisa O'Leary AGA Members Recognized in J.D. Power Customer Service Satisfaction Survey

Interaction with a customer service representative on the phone has driven satisfaction up significantly among natural gas utility business customers, according to the 2015 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, created by J.D. Power and Associates.

Now in its 10th year, the study released in February measured residential customer satisfaction with gas utility companies by looking at six factors: billing and payment; field service; communications; customer service; corporate citizenship; and price.

Each utility company included in the study serves at least 25,000 business customers, or 3.4 million in total and were ranked in four geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West. This year’s study was based on responses from more than 9,000 online interviews with business customers who spent at least $150 monthly on natural gas.

American Gas Association (AGA) members PSE&G (East), DTE Energy (Midwest), Alagasco (South), and Questar (West) ranked highest in overall satisfaction. Additional AGA members who were ranked among the top three in their respective region included: BG&E, National Fuel Gas Company, MidAmerican Energy, Black Hills Energy, Oklahoma Natural Gas, Atmos Energy, NW Natural, and Southwest Gas.

According to the study, satisfaction improves year over year for a majority of attributes that comprise the customer service factor, including courtesy of the representative; the representative’s concern for customer needs; the timeliness of resolving the problem, question, or request; and the promptness in speaking to a person. Another key finding of the study revealed that customer satisfaction with billing and payment is higher when statements include useful information, such as graphs or pictures.

AGA members deliver clean, efficient and affordable natural gas to more than 68 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in the U.S., and are true partners in the communities they serve, some for as many as 100 years.

To learn more about the 2015 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, click here.

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Dave McCurdy Foundation Fuel for a Sustainable Energy in America

I am proud to participate again in the launch of the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. As always, Bloomberg New Energy Finance has put together a detailed look at our nation’s energy picture and an expert discussion of the path we are on. The only way to examine this path is through a fact-based dialogue, and this report has once again reinvigorated this discussion.

BCSE Factbook

The Sustainable Energy in America Factbook continues to prove that growth in renewable energy can happen simultaneously with a growth in natural gas and a strong U.S. economy. Between 2007 and 2014, U.S. carbon emissions from the energy sector dropped 9 percent, U.S. natural gas production rose 25 percent and total U.S. investment in renewables and other clean energy technologies was more than $385 billion. Natural gas is a foundation fuel and working alongside renewables and energy efficiency it provides an incredible opportunity to deliver the essential energy that will help drive economic growth while protecting the environment.

2014 was another record year for natural gas use. In the midst of the ‘polar vortex’ in January of last year, the natural gas delivery system set daily, weekly, and monthly records. Natural gas reliability was tested, but local utility customers throughout the country continued to receive dependable service at affordable prices. Diligent planning and preparedness of natural gas utilities and the strategic use of underground storage made sure resources were available during peak demand periods. At year end, natural gas demand hit 66.9 Bcf per day, an increase of 1.8 Bcf per day compared to 2013. The natural gas industry is responding, building and reconfiguring infrastructure to reflect the changes of this shifting and rapidly expanding market including changes to how we move gas around the country.

2015FB_ Natgas

This national trend is made possible by the work being done in communities throughout our country. Using natural gas in your home or business saves money and reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.  Local utilities are delivering these energy solutions every day to customers across the nation.

Thank you to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy for leading this dialogue about how our nation can remain on the path towards sustainability. Natural gas utilities will continue to serve our customers safely and reliably and remind policymakers at every level of the inherent benefits of the direct use of natural gas.

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