Natural gas use likely to drop
Warmer than usual weather and the growing use of energy efficient appliances are likely to lead to a slight decrease in the amount of natural gas Pennsylvanians will use during this winter heating season.
Natural gas customers will probably need about 209.8 billion cubic feet of gas this winter, distribution companies told the state Public Utility Commission in data it released Wednesday. That would be a drop of 1.1 billion cubic feet, or 0.5 percent, from last winter's consumption.
“We're talking about almost an insignificant difference,” said Thomas B. Murphy, co-director of the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.
Weather is likely the primary factor, officials and experts said. They also pointed to efforts by consumers to trim their bills through conservation — a trend that lingered from the recession.
A warmer-than-average October set heating season back, putting off the pace of consumption, commission spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said. People have also been using less gas and more efficient appliances for several years, Kocher and others said.
“There's been a general trend towards conservation,” said Terry Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, which represents the state's gas distributors. “Customers are generally getting smarter about the way they use it and take advantage of technology.”
That trend has caused friction for the industry, which has tried to encourage the state to decouple any connection between profits and usage, Fitzpatrick said. The push for several rate hikes and the new state rule allowing companies to levy system improvement charges have both come from that friction, he said.
The state's distributors all expect to have ample supplies this year, the Energy Association reported to the PUC. The influx of gas from the Marcellus shale and the construction of new pipelines have made stockpiles abundant and ready even for the coldest days, it said. That echoed the seasonal assessment from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which made similar nationwide predictions for this winter back in October.
The tepid residential heating demand has pushed gas companies to find more customers, too, Murphy said. Peoples Natural Gas Co. is supplying natural gas to Vogel Disposal Service Inc. and to Giant Eagle stores where it will fuel cars and trucks, a crucial emerging market, Peoples spokesman Barry Kukovich said.
They're hoping the supply and the low prices have led to a tipping point after which locals will use more natural gas. Both Peoples and Equitable — two of the three big distribution companies in Western Pennsylvania — are projecting increases for this winter.
Peoples projects its customers will use 45.2 billion cubic feet of gas this winter, compared to 42.8 billion last winter. Equitable Gas projects its customers will use a total of 18 billion cubic feet of gas this year, up from 17.3 billion last winter.
“We have a lot of people coming to us,” Kukovich said.
Timothy Puko is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site
- Muni bond funds stressed
- Companies hand out perks, benefits instead of pay raises
- Small business hangs on fate of Export-Import Bank
- When it comes to home ownership, Hispanics finding locked doors
- Extended oil slump takes toll
- Off-duty but on call: Suits seek overtime
- Jaguar XJ flagship struggles to keep pace
- PPG puts brand 1st in strategy to reach commercial paint market
- Range Resources cuts workforce 11%
- 3 vehicles to keep an eye on for 2016