UIL projects bring natural gas to schools

UIL Holdings Corp. is doing its part to ensure students get a warm welcome as they head back to class for the 2014-15 school year.

In the two years since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made expansion of natural gas service a cornerstone of Connecticut’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, UIL and its Connecticut natural gas distribution utilities have helped to bring clean-burning, inexpensive natural gas heat to some two dozen schools across the state.

Since 2012, the Southern Connecticut Gas Co. (SCG) and Connecticut Natural Gas Corp. (CNG) have facilitated the conversion of 23 schools across Connecticut, including St. Thomas Aquinas School. An additional seven school conversion projects are under way.

In many cases, these schools served as “anchor” customers for natural gas main extension projects, helping to build the critical mass of demand that’s required by state law in order to justify the cost to extend a natural gas main.

“Schools are natural partners for our natural gas distribution companies as we execute our plans to expand the availability of natural gas within our region,” said Tony Marone, UIL’s senior vice president for customer and business services. “We’re pleased to be able to help our communities save on energy costs by converting to this clean-burning and abundant fuel.”

“Many school buildings are old and rely on inefficient oil-burning equipment to meet their heating needs,” said Terri Eller, director of commercial and industrial sales at UIL. “When they convert to natural gas, which is currently about half the price of oil for equivalent heating output, they can start reducing the district’s energy costs immediately — while also benefiting the environment.”

CNG completed an expansion project in Windsor in July that included 8,300 feet of new main to serve three schools, including the town’s high school. The town took advantage of the opportunity to convert a half dozen schools and other town buildings to natural gas heat.

Whit Przech, Windsor’s building and facilities manager, said converting the facilities to natural gas will save the town an estimated $450,000 a year in heating costs.

“Lower operating cost was the driving factor behind the conversions,” he said.  “When we started this project, I knew the savings were there: The cost of gas was coming down, and supply was reasonably stable. So the low-hanging fruit was converting to natural gas.”

Przech added that local homeowners and businesses that lie along the new gas mains also benefit from the expansion project.

“If they have an old boiler or furnace they need to replace, it’s the perfect time to convert,” he said.

UIL’s gas main expansion projects are in keeping with the state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which seeks to convert some 280,000 customers to natural gas over the course of 10 years. Since Malloy announced the new strategy in 2011, UIL has added approximately 30,000 new natural gas heating customers in Connecticut.

Customers within the SCG and CNG territories may visit connecttogas.com to see if natural gas service is available where they live.

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