We have been watching the natural gas storm on the horizon for some time, and this is the first major lightning strike.  We’ve theorized that LNG (liquefied natural gas) would be exported to Europe soon, raising prices for all gas consumers in the United States.  While that is still probable, there is a more immediate, domestic dilemma that Maine residents and small business owners will soon face.

It hasn’t been a secret that we have limited natural gas pipeline availability in New England, and the major pipelines coming to us from the south are not nearly large enough to meet the requirements for our demanding heating season.  For example, since July, Maine Natural Gas has been unable to connect new customers to the gas mains until an uncertain date in 2015 (we suspect it will be late in the year).  While at Thayer we strive to remain fuel-neutral, we question whether it is in everyone’s best interest to connect to natural gas, with many reasons listed in one of our previous articles (read more here).

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), along with representatives from other state agencies, has issued a press release to the public, warning them to prepare for a surge in the price of electricity during the upcoming winter months.  Over half of the electricity in Maine is generated from natural gas.  Increased demand for gas and an inability to meet that demand has directly caused the price of electricity for Mainers to skyrocket.  While homeowners will not see price spikes until March of 2015, small-to-medium businesses should brace for impact since rates will more than double for standard rate customers by January; CMP customers, for example, will see price spikes from $.06 to $.15 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the press release.

Individual consumers and businesses alike make financial decisions based on electricity being available at predictable costs; not priced on crisis.  The fact of the matter is that the natural gas pipeline is constricted, and that is not going to change for several years at best.  After the method of funding new pipelines is determined, political wills of many must align.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do before the onslaught of this energy crisis; all relating to energy efficiency.  Both Michael Stoddard, Executive Director of Efficiency Maine, and Tom Welch, Commission Chairman of Maine Public Utilities Commission believe that now is the perfect opportunity to take a proactive stance and make energy efficient decisions.  At the beginning of October, the MPUC has approved the increased allocation of funding to Efficiency Maine.

There are a number of changes to existing programs, which when combined with the rising cost of energy actually makes for better incentives, equaling quicker payback.  We have effectively bundled several of the existing Efficiency Maine programs with new ones to yield larger incentives for our client/partners.  Call one of our project engineers today and have your building benchmarked using the Energy Star rating system, which will give you a starting point of things to consider.  There are almost always cost effective improvements that can be made to make you more money.