January 31, 2013

Natural gas firms offer millions in investment to three Maine towns

Two companies say they would spend $60 million to $70 million to expand access to Falmouth, Yarmouth and Cumberland.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Summit says it would not reject a TIF plan if the communities chose to pursue one.

Both companies are offering incentive programs for customers to convert equipment in homes and businesses to burn natural gas instead of other fuels.

Maine Natural Gas says it would pay half the conversion cost -- up to $1,000 for residential customers and up to $1,500 for commercial customers.

Converting to natural gas can be costly for homeowners, said Peter Maietta, co-owner of Maietta Titus Blaschke Plumbing and Heating.

Depending on the age of a boiler or heating system, costs can vary widely, from a couple of thousand dollars for boilers that can be partially converted and are less than about 10 years old, to systems that require total replacement and can cost as much as $10,000, he said.

"It starts with the customer's willingness to do the swap," Maietta said.

Although natural gas prices are attractive now, he said, the future of oil and gas commodities is never certain. Depending on long-term fluctuations in price, some households recoup the conversion cost in a few years, while others take closer to a decade, he said.

Shane and others said they will work in the coming weeks to ensure that the companies provide comparable information about rate structures and potential cost savings.

Current estimations for annual savings use different base assumptions about how much energy customers will use, so they are misleading, Shane said. "We have to really drill down into the details to really understand what they're saying."

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@pressherald.com

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