Lower Heating Prices

October 22, 2014

From CNBC

Lower heating prices
A drop in energy costs is good news for consumers as the temperatures fall. Most households may only see $20 to $30 in savings on their heating bills this season compared to last winter, but some customers could see a nearly $800 drop in their overall heating costs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
More than a third of U.S. households use natural gas to heat their homes and the price of that fuel is likely to be higher than last winter (electricity prices, which follow natural gas, are on the rise too), but the forecast for milder temperatures should mean overall consumption for the heating season–and your bill–will be lower than last year. If you’re in the Northeast and use heating oil or propane to heat your home, you could see a 15-percent drop in your winter heating bill versus last winter. Propane users in the Midwest may pay the most in the country to heat their homes, but with the drop in propane prices, the overall cost will be about 30 percent less than last year, according to the EIA.

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By Maya Rao Inquirer Staff Writer TRENTON –

 Last month, a state utilities board voted to allocate $15 million in federal stimulus money for grants to make businesses more energy efficient.

The money for the program, which seeks to lower New Jersey residents’ utility bills by reducing demand from the biggest users of the electric grid, should have come from a fee assessed on major commercial and industrial users since 2003.

 But the Retail Margin Fund, which holds that revenue, is empty – among the consequences of hundreds of millions of dollars in diversions from “dedicated” funds to help the state close a multibillion-dollar budget gap.

 Budget documents show that environmental and clean-energy programs designed to reduce New Jersey household and commercial utility bills are being hit particularly hard, with about $400 million rerouted into the state’s general fund.

The state raided $128 million from the Retail Margin Fund, which is generated by fees from commercial and industrial users, in the fiscal year that ended June 30, and will take $14 million under the $29.4 billion budget signed into law last week.

Greg Reinert, spokesman for the Board of Public Utilities, said the fund had never spent the money collected over the years.

 Today, he said, “there’s nothing left in it.” Just last year, the state enacted a law authorizing the fund to spend $60 million on combined-heat-and-power grants for businesses. The program aimed to help the state develop 1,500 megawatts of cogeneration capacity by 2020.

 Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D., Somerset), a primary sponsor of the 2009 law, criticized the shift of $15 million in stimulus money to fund the cogeneration program as a one-shot fix. The fund is paid into by business customers “who are hurting with higher energy costs.

 By taking their money away and not giving it back to them, to balance the budget, it’s totally inappropriate,” he said. Chivukula grilled the sponsor of the bill authorizing the diversions from that and other environmental funds on the Assembly floor during last Monday’s marathon legislative session. Yet Chivukula provided one of the handful of Democratic votes needed to pass the measure, citing “the spirit of bipartisanship.” “Given the dire circumstances we’re facing in New Jersey with revenue shortfalls, we have little or no choice” but to look to other areas “to make this budget balanced,” Assemblyman Joseph Malone (R., Burlington), the bill’s sponsor and a previous critic of budget raids, told Chivukula.

The moves concern lawmakers and environmental advocates alike. “One of the problems is that this isn’t taxpayer money. . . . It was ratepayer money that had been set aside and dedicated to clean energy that helps people save money and helps create jobs and helps reduce pollution, so it was a no-win situation for the environment, the economy, and the people of New Jersey,” said Matt Elliott, the global-warming and clean-energy advocate for Environment New Jersey.

 “Once they get used to robbing these funds,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, “they may continue to rob them because it becomes easy – and that is going to mean higher electric costs for consumers, fewer jobs in a time when we need to grow our economy, and more air pollution.”

The largest diversion comes from the Clean Energy Fund, which annually takes in about $250 million, an average of $20 per New Jersey household, through a charge on utility bills. The fee stems from the 1999 utility deregulation under Republican Gov. Christie Whitman.

Revelations that the administration of Gov. Jon S. Corzine rerouted $30 million from the fund in 2009 drew outrage from several South Jersey lawmakers. Assemblymen Vincent Polistina and John Amodeo, Republicans from Atlantic County, lambasted the move as “Exhibit A of budget-balancing gimmicks.” Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington) called for an end to the practice.

 But those same lawmakers closed out fiscal 2010 by voting to authorize a $158 million diversion from the fund, and an additional $10 million this fiscal year.

In interviews, the three legislators said they continued to oppose raiding funds, but described their votes as necessary in a difficult fiscal climate.

Polistina blamed the Democratic Corzine administration, saying it had “overestimated revenues so badly that we were left with very little options, and at this point it seemed like the best way to try to close the shortfall that was created by Corzine.”

The moves have also upset the industry: The Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association sued the Christie administration in May, saying diversions of clean-energy money were unconstitutional. Reinert said the impact of the diversions from the Clean Energy Fund had been softened by the BPU’s recapturing $61 million that had been set aside but never spent on various projects.

He said the BPU had actually increased funding for a successful home energy audit program. Taking money from dedicated funds is a longtime, if controversial, practice under administrations of both parties in Trenton.

State leaders gave approval last week to dip into funds dedicated to spinal-cord and breast-cancer research, disability payments, and economic development. They authorized diverting $10 million set aside to make state buildings more energy efficient, and tapping the recycling fund for $7 million, the same amount diverted last year. The budget also says that “all revenues from fees and fines collected by the Department of Environmental Protection . . . shall be deposited into the state general fund without regard to their specific dedication.”

States from California to Connecticut are raiding dedicated funds to offset enormous budget deficits. Rhode Island this year decided it was a violation of state law to divert cap-and-trade revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is an agreement among 10 Northeast states to cut carbon emissions. New York and New Hampshire, however, took millions from their RGGI funds this year.

New Jersey is redirecting $65 million in RGGI money to its general fund. Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D., Cape May) said the moves meant a lack of investment in the future, given that New Jersey has been “on the cutting edge of clean energy.”

He withheld his support for the budget last year out of numerous concerns about raiding dedicated funds, and has sponsored a resolution to bar the practice through a state constitutional amendment. He nonetheless voted to authorize the diversions last week, explaining: “We have to move forward in New Jersey.

We have to put out a message that we can’t have a [government] shutdown.”

Our Perspective:

I find this article to be really distuurbing. It just continues to validate my view that the system is broken. We have been caught up in greed and abandoned our ideals to be self serving. We have to rethink our efforts and start thinking outside the box.

The status quo is not working. The politicians are not serving our best interest. There must be a better way and we have to start electing people who our true to our ideals and will work to make this world a better place. Stop putting bandaids on everything.

By Andrew Maykuth

Inquirer Staff Writer

Peco Energy Co. yesterday offered its vision of the electrical grid of the future:

In a few years, “smart” electric meters will be able to do much more than measure the power consumed in customers’ homes. They will tell customers how much money they are spending on electricity in real time, and offer options for cutting costs.

“Your air conditioner will be able to talk to your dishwasher and sequence their usage to save money,” Glenn Pritchard, a Peco engineer, said as he surveyed a table of meters and thermostats at the utility’s Center City headquarters.

At his Souderton home, Pritchard is testing a wireless model that supplies a weather report on its digital readout. His children’s favorite is a 9-inch-high, Web-enabled plastic rabbit that can be programmed to flash red and wiggle its ears when the price of power is getting dear.

If all goes as planned, Peco will connect 600,000 customers to smart meters in three years.

The utility announced plans to spend $650 million in the next 10 years to upgrade its transmission and distribution system to incorporate “smart-grid” technology. The improvements include fiber-optic and wireless-communications systems to enable the smart meters.

To accelerate the rollout, the company applied for $200 million in federal stimulus money from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is administering the $3.3 billion Smart Grid Investment Grant Program.

“This isn’t your father’s old utility anymore, and I can say that as my father worked here for 35 years before me,” said Peco president Denis O’Brien.

The investment will generate customer savings of $500 million over 10 years and $1.5 billion over the expected 25-year life of the equipment, O’Brien said, as well as create employment equal to 4,300 “job-years.”

Peco will have competition for the stimulus money, though. Yesterday was the deadline for smart-grid applications, and other utilities also announced proposals.

Public Service Electric & Gas Co. in New Jersey applied for a $76 million grant to fund half of a $152 million project to improve the grid’s reliability and protect it against cyberattacks.

PSE&G’s plans also include communications technology that would allow for the eventual integration of plug-in electric vehicles, small-scale wind and solar generation, and smart meters.

PPL Electric Utilities Corp., of Allentown, has proposed a $38 million pilot project – half of it funded by stimulus money – that would introduce 60,000 Harrisburg customers to smart technology.

Most of the smart-grid improvements would be invisible to customers, incorporating advanced switches and digital equipment that would increase the system’s reliability, efficiency, and security from attack.

The power companies are responding to increasing pressure to meet emerging emission-reduction goals. A new Pennsylvania law requires utilities to reduce electrical-output production 3 percent by 2013 and cut peak-demand load 4.5 percent. It also provides for utilities to recoup their expenses through higher rates.

Next week, Pennsylvania’s utilities must disclose their smart-meter deployment plans, which will set the stage for discounting power during off-peak hours to encourage customers to shift consumption away from times when the electrical system’s generation and distribution systems are stressed.

Peco is still examining equipment options and pricing plans. Customers will be able to opt to keep the current flat-rate pricing scheme.

Part of Peco’s grant proposal is to incorporate a pilot project for clients of the Philadelphia Housing Authority that would become a model for low-income customers. Liberty Property Trusts and Drexel University have also signed on to integrate properties into the Peco network more efficiently.

Residential customers may have an array of smart-meter options. They might range from simple devices that provide a color-coded light signal to curtail power during peak hours to sophisticated ones that tie in major appliances so that customers could volunteer to allow Peco to remotely manage their use during peak hours.

Or customers might be able to manage their home thermostats through the Internet, or even a wireless handheld device such as a BlackBerry.

“When we all see the meter running . . . we will all be able to manage our energy much more effectively and efficiently,” O’Brien said.

PSEG to develop wind farm

November 18, 2008

 

PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Ralph Izzo, PSEG chairman and CEO, in a keynote speech today at the Newark Green Future Summit, called climate change “the greatest environmental challenge of our time” and said it presented a solid opportunity for growth in New Jersey, especially its cities.

Izzo spoke at a conference spearheaded by the Clinton Global Initiative to promote sustainable economic development and discussion about the “greening” of Newark’s economy and community.

“Climate change is not only the greatest environmental challenge of our time, it’s an opportunity for economic and community development,” Izzo said. “We have capital that we are ready to invest, in projects that will require an expanded workforce. The opportunities for residents of our cities will be immense.”

Izzo noted that cities have the potential to become hubs of the growing green economy, as long as they have access to energy efficiency, renewable energy and the jobs that will deliver them.

He detailed PSEG’s plans to weatherize homes and businesses in Newark and Trenton, develop a 350-megawatt wind farm off the coast of southern New Jersey, and expedite investment in solar power statewide. All of these initiatives, he said, will create new green jobs.

Izzo also discussed the company’s workforce development efforts, which include the creation of a green energy academy dedicated to preparing high school students for green collar jobs and the expansion of the energy utility technology degree programs being offered with several New Jersey colleges.

“We are looking to form new partnerships with government, community groups, educational institutions, military and others on initiatives that will prepare New Jersey residents for green jobs of the future.”

Our perspective:

PSEG has been very proactive in supporting alternative energy efforts. NJ, along with California, are poised to be leaders in the efforts to provide energy independence. If we all work together this worthy goal will be achieved and issue in a new era of stability and strength in the economy.

Let us know your thoughts? You may email george@hbsadvantage.com or post a comment.

July 1 (Bloomberg) — Billionaire investor Eli Broad said the U.S. economy is in the worst recession since World War II and a recovery in the housing market is “several years” away.

 

“This is worse than any recession we’ve had since World War II,” Broad, 75, said in an interview yesterday. Broad, the founder of homebuilder KB Home, said the U.S. should avoid a depression on the scale of the 1930s because the country now has sufficient “safety nets.”

 

With home sales and prices declining and consumer confidence at a 28-year low, “I don’t see it turning around very quickly,” Broad said. The economy expanded at an annual rate of 1 percent in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said last week. That caps the weakest six months of growth in five years.

 

“This is the worst period of my adult lifetime,” Broad said, speaking about the U.S. economy. “I do not think things are going to get any better” before the next president takes office in January. Selling off vacant, unsold homes could take “several years,” he said.

 

The U.S. will avoid a collapse as severe as the 1930s thanks in part to Federal Reserve oversight of the banking system and other safeguards that didn’t exist then, he said.

 

New Capital

 

Still, U.S. banks may have to raise as much as $65 billion as losses and writedowns extend into the first quarter of 2009, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts said last month.

 

The world’s biggest financial firms have posted about $400 billion in writedowns and credit losses tied to the U.S. housing slump, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

 

The U.S. lost 49,000 jobs in May, when the unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent, the fifth straight month with a drop in payrolls and the biggest jump in the jobless rate in more than two decades. Financial companies have announced plans to eliminate more than 83,000 jobs since last July.

 

Broad said his concerns for the U.S. center around energy, healthcare and public education.

 

“I don’t see national leadership that is going to have the ability to really ride over the deep rooted vested interests,” he said.

 

“The problem is, people don’t believe prices have bottomed out,” he said. “You’ve got to induce people to buy houses” with federal policies including tax incentives.

 

Our Perspective:

 

The economy is now foremost in peoples mind. Gas continues to go up, now it is over $4.00 a gallon. There is even talk of prices being over $5.00 per gallon in the fall.

 

The mortgage market is at a stand still. Although rates are very desirable, the only people to benefit are those with above average credit ratings. Granted things got a little out of hand, the mortgage companies were giving away money to anyone who was willing to sign there name. There must be a middle ground. Confidence must be gained to allow the economy move forward.

 

Food costs are now feeling the effect of higher gas and utility prices. This is going to cause more anxiety.

 

Speaking of utilities, natural gas prices are continue to climb even thou reserves are still at a 5yr high. New Jersey Natural Gas has applied for an 18% increase beginning Oct 2008. In NJ, PSE&G electric rates just increased over 13% in June 2008. 

 

What to do

 

Consumers must be more diligent. Although you are paying more, take the time to look at viable alternatives. Just don’t settle for business as usual.

 

Businesses who use a large volume of natural gas can buy their gas in the deregulated market. Savings are normally 5% to 8% lower than the provider.

 

Tired of rising electric prices! Get off the grid. There are incentives to install solar panels at your business or home. These incentives more than cover the cost of installation. Become your own provider.

 

Should you want to know more about opportunities to reduce cost and discuss viable alternatives email george@hbsadvantage.com

 

Visit us on the web www.hbsadvantage.com to learn more opportunities available for you.