FARMINGTON — Word that Summit Natural Gas of Maine will be unable to meet a deadline for bringing natural gas to Franklin County provided the backdrop Wednesday when community members gathered at the University of Maine at Farmington to discuss alternatives.

About 50 people attended New Directions in Farmington’s Energy Future, a forum on ways to reduce dependence on heating oil and explore more cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy sources.

“There have been lots of changes in energy on the local, state and regional level,” said Luke Kellett, a member of the Sustainable Campus Coalition, which hosted the event. “Part of that in Farmington includes the recent news from Summit.”

Summit, which recently completed a 68-mile natural gas pipeline from Pittston to Madison and planned to expand to Farmington, announced earlier this month that it wouldn’t be able to fulfill a commitment to bring natural gas to UMF by 2016. If the university, the largest potential customer in the county, does not connect to the pipeline, the company has said it will not serve other customers in the county.

UMF is prepared to move in other directions. “All fuels and all possibilities are on the table,” said Jeffrey McKay, director of facilities management at UMF. “Whether it’s biomass or oil, we feel the need to make the best decision for us and for the community. That’s why this meeting is so important.”

Much of the discussion Wednesday night centered around diversifying energy sources on campus.

“We live in a really exciting time, because there’s a lot of energy sources available and we wouldn’t necessarily have to use just one source on campus,” said Bill Crandaw, a Farmington resident and program manager at Western Maine Community Action.

Crandaw said wood pellets would be a good heating option because they are made locally and have proved to provide financial and energy savings in many school districts.

Several people also suggested using heat pumps as an alternative energy source.

Paul Stancioff, a professor of physics at UMF, said he uses a heat pump for his home and has totally eliminated his oil bill, although his electric bill has increased.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

[email protected] Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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