What is the role of natural gas utilities in a clean energy economy?
Increasingly, energy providers are adapting to the task of helping their customers get more out of the energy they purchase and use.
Traditional energy markets were supply driven. The new energy market is increasingly customer driven. AGA members–natural gas utilities–see it as critical that we help customers and communities change our nation’s energy habits. Indeed we need to be drivers of that change.
Natural gas utilities have a great story to build upon in helping meet the energy needs of U.S. homes and businesses with a fuel that is clean, abundant, domestic, and efficient.
Residential natural gas consumers are leaders in energy efficiency.Natural gas usage per household has decreased even as demand for energy has risen. This trend is due in part to tighter-fitting windows and better insulation, increased thermostat control, the development of increasingly more efficient natural gas appliances and the contribution of utility sponsored energy efficiency programs to helping consumers make smart energy consumption choices. These improvements translate to big energy savings:
- Residential customers can reduce their energy use by up to 30 percent when they replace older furnaces and boilers with high-efficiency natural gas appliances.
- Customers that lower their thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day can save about 10 percent on their energy bill.
Natural Gas use per customer has decreased by about 1 percent per year for the last 40 years, which means that the average residential customer today uses 40 percent less than they did 40 years ago. While the number of residential customers has increased by 27 million (71 percent) since 1970, total use of natural gas and greenhouse gas emissions has remained flat.
Natural gas utilities offer energy and cost savings to consumers.America’s natural gas utilities have demonstrated their commitment to promoting cost-effective and practical approaches to increasing energy efficiency. In 2009 utilities invested $803 million in natural gas efficiency programs and budgeted about $1.1 billion in 2010.
As part of these programs, utilities provide valuable tools, incentives and information to help their customers understand and reduce their energy usage. These include:
- cash rebates and low-interest financing for high-efficiency natural gas appliance purchases
- home energy audits, weatherization kits, energy calculators and telephone hotlines
- information on insulation, programmable thermostats and high-efficiency appliances
- connecting customers with experienced and reliable appliance service providers
- web-based information resources
The AGA Natural Gas Efficiency Programs Report - 2009 Program Year presents data collected from members of the American Gas Association and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency on utility-funded natural gas efficiency and conservation programs. The purpose of this report is to show the magnitude of this rapidly growing market in the U.S. and Canada and to identify practices and trends in program planning, funding, administration and evaluation. The report looks retrospectively at the status of the natural gas efficiency market in 2009, including expenditures and savings impacts, and presents a snapshot of budgets for 2010. Also explored are regulatory approaches to advancing the natural gas efficiency market. This fourth annual study illustrates how natural gas utilities have been working with their customers to help them reduce their carbon footprint and increase cost savings and with their regulators to bring about progressive policies that support such initiatives.
Programs funded by natural gas utilities helped N. American customers save 90 trillion British Thermal Units (tBTU) in the 2009 program year (an 11 percent increase from 81 trillion Btu in 2009) and avoid 4.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
More than 64 million (or more than half of) American homes are heated with natural gas. Because natural gas is the fuel of choice in so many American households, continued improvements in residential energy efficiency are an important investment in the transition to a smart and clean energy economy.