Eversource: We’re ‘Disappointed’ That New Canaan Is Abandoning Natural Gas Plans for Community

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.

Sincerely,

Paul Zohorsky

Vice President, Operations Process Improvement, Eversource

6 thoughts on “Eversource: We’re ‘Disappointed’ That New Canaan Is Abandoning Natural Gas Plans for Community

  1. Dear Mr. Zohorsky,

    Everyone in New Canaan would appreciate natural gas pipelines that are actually in operation, not just a point of endless discussion for years. Indeed, the topic of propane came about a month ago and it seems you are responding now. You and your colleagues need to deliver, no pun intended.

    That being said, any plan to have Santa (or another third party) own propane tanks and lease the tanks to the Town, is not the way to go either. As an owner of five 1,000 gallon propane tanks, every time my tanks need to be filled, there is as much as a $1 per gallon discrepancy amongst propane vendors. If Eversource cannot get pipelines done, the only alternative that makes sense from the perspective of New Canaan taxpayers is to have the Town own the propane tanks and bid out the cost of propane, based on a spread over the Selkirk index. A AAA rated municipality has a lower cost of capital than any private tank leasing company. Theoretically, pipelines should have a lower cost of delivery than a fleet of trucks for the same amount of BTUs but you need to produce results, not just late letters to the Editor.

    With a little luck, Eversource and the Selectmen may listen. Whether the outcome is natural gas or propane, that is for the market to determine on a timely basis, not years from now. Residents are convinced the only thing Eversource and propane companies understand is competition. It is up to propane and natural gas vendors to put their best foot forward now. The Selectmen need to ensure this happens now too, in a transparent manner, for all taxpayers to read and make a decision. This is pretty straight forward so let’s get it done and let the best interests of taxpayers prevail!

  2. It would be good to have someone from the town who made the decision to go to propane explain why installing propane tanks and endlessly filling them was a wiser course of action than working to have natural gas installed.

  3. I’d like to know more of what is going on than just letters to the editor indicate. Natural gas seems to be the less expensive alternative and doesn’t require storage tanks and truck deliveries. If Wilton got natural gas, why can’t New Canaan get it? The natural gas pipeline runs through New Canaan.

  4. A propane company squashed the deal behind the scenes. Stay tuned for the amazing story that will describe how this happened.

  5. As someone who just converted to natural gas, let me tell you, it is amazing. We live right over the New Canaan border in Darien so I really don’t understand what the issue is for NC. Huge difference. Seems a shame for residents.

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