Like many residents, we were disappointed to learn that the Town of New Canaan decided to abandon plans to switch to natural gas for the entire community, and instead pursue a propane system for only town and school buildings. That decision effectively eliminates natural gas as a viable economic option for residents and businesses.
For more than two years, we at Eversource (previously Yankee Gas) have been working with New Canaan officials on plans to bring natural gas to homes, businesses, and municipal buildings in town. In fact, we’ve been collaborating with cities and towns across the state to expand natural gas to Connecticut residents under the state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy.
Our Two-Fold Responsibility
We’re proud to deliver a clean, affordable energy option to new communities and we take that responsibility seriously. However, it’s a twofold responsibility that also includes consideration for other Eversource gas customers and compliance with parameters set by state regulators. Simply put, natural gas expansion projects must be economically viable.
For most projects, economic viability depends upon having large “anchor” customers such as municipal buildings, schools, or large commercial locations, where demand and use of natural gas is high. In New Canaan, town and school buildings would have fulfilled that requirement, and were essential to expanding access to homes and businesses. We’ve successfully used this model in many other municipalities, and have secured arrangements that have helped to overcome regulatory, logistical, and timing challenges.
Strong Partnerships Lead to Successful Expansion Projects
In 2011, we began having conversations with the town of Wilton about natural gas expansion. Thanks to a strong commitment from the town’s leadership, more than 70 residential, municipal and commercial customers are now enjoying the advantages of natural gas. Like New Canaan, the Wilton project also presented challenges in terms of financing and timing. Ultimately, combining gas expansion with municipal road construction projects served as the best way to propel the project forward. This saved the cost of repaving the roads and lessened the inconvenience of multiple construction and traffic disruptions to the town.
We’ve found similar success partnering with other communities to finance these projects. In some areas, the town or large businesses participated through a financial contribution—actually, an investment—that is ultimately recovered through the energy savings achieved with natural gas. Some residents have even championed the benefits of natural gas, which has led to whole neighborhoods committing to switch. All of these actions helped ensure the economic viability of each expansion project.
Advocating for an Inclusive Solution
To reiterate, New Canaan’s decision to use propane in its primary facilities eliminates natural gas as an economically viable option for residents and businesses. We must ask—should a “good deal” for schools and municipal buildings outweigh a better deal for the residents of New Canaan? We don’t think so, and invite New Canaan’s leadership back to the table as Eversource’s partner in bringing energy savings to the whole community.
Vice President, Operations Process Improvement, Eversource