In response of a resolution of the Senate of Pennsylvania, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania published a 30 page report on the extension and expansion of natural gas distribution infrastructure in the Commonwealth. The results may have implications for the Pocono-Northeast and central Pennsylvania. Looking at fifteen counties, the survey results revealed that the savings in the use of natural gas were recognized by homeowners and that conversion was practical to many who have not as yet transferred their primary energy source tonatural gas.
Homeowners in the North Central region of the Commonwealth were more likely to convert than in other regions. For a typical homeowner, upfront costs might be in the range of $6000 with annual savings of $1000. On the other hand, the model used in the analysis predicted that half or more of the households would not connect regardless of the upfront costs or payback period on the investment due to worry about potential future increases in gas prices, the hassle ofinstallinga new supply liner and heating equipment, and an inability to afford upfront costs.
According to federal data, natural gas production in Pennsylvania in 2012 averaged over 6 billion cubic feet per day. This was a significant increase from five years ago, and tends to induce a valid framework from which to enhance the use of natural gas in various regions of the Commonwealth.
The report suggests several conclusions as follows:
Most surveyed were well informed about the relative operating costs of different heating systems.
Very few respondents lived in houses that are incapable of being converted to natural gas heat due to the inability to install pipes or ducts.
The probability of connection increases as the upfront costs decrease and increases as the payback time in years decreases.
The decision by a utility company to construct a natural gas line is dependent upon a case by case basis, but as noted there is more of a positive feeling in North Central Pennsylvania than elsewhere.
The report has information about each county relative to number of households, gas block groups, and non- gas block groups. In Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties, the percentage of homes heated with natural gas are 46 and 62 respectively.
In this region, the report should be thoroughly reviewed, studied, and analyzed for potential use since the natural gas industry has already had substantial impact in jobs, income, and the state of the economy. The report should be evaluated as to distribution issues and the potential that may exist for energy development in coming years. The document does not look at environmental factors, but serves as a platform for data gathering that can be an important component in making future decisions across the region. Some of the factors that could be considered include the following:
Should this region find ways to lower overall costs of conversion?
Should steps be taken to examine geographic areas other than North Central Pennsylvania?
Should an appropriate regional entity in this region begin to focus attention on what the Center study has produced?
Should The regional community examine all sides of the natural gas boom relating to the economy, environment, transportation, and other aspects of the natural gas industry?
These are only a few of the elements that could be studied by regional officials in coming months as the industry continues to blossom across regional boundary lines. The Center study is worth reviewing in full detail by all appropriate officials and citizens in the region.
Howard J. Grossman operates his own consulting firm, HJG Associates, 116 Grandview Drive, Pittston Township Pa. 18640, e-mail grossmanHJ@aol.com.