Final Touches are Being Made to the Annual Energy Conference

On June 9-10, we will proudly present the 13th Annual Energy Conference at Skamania Lodge. As always, we have a terrific group of sponsors and speakers lined up, and look forward to continuing to discuss the current events and the future of energy in the Northwest. 

We are pleased to confirm our Keynote Speakers as:

John Horvick, Vice President & Political Director, DHM Research

Pat Reiten, President and CEO, PacifiCorp Transmission

We are have put together a great agenda with returning top rated speakers Grant Forsyth Ph.D., Avista, with the Regional Economic Outlook and Josh McCall, BP, with Natural Gas Fundamentals. We will hear from Tom Karier, NWPCC, on the Insights from the 7th Power Plan, Brad Christensen, Noble Americas Energy Solutions, Best Practices in Energy Commodity Risk Management, Updates on Methanol and LNG Projects, with Clay Riding, NW Innovation Works and Chuck Deister, Pioneer Group LLC.

Where’s carbon policy headed? We will hear about Oregon’s Carbon Policy Direction from Sen. Lee Beyer, Oregon, and Washington’s Carbon Policy Direction from State Rep. Jeff Morris, Washington (invited). Jeff Burks, Energy Strategies, will discuss the Potential Impacts of Washington’s Carbon Rule. Van Ness Feldman’s Emily Pitlick Mallen, Molly Lawrence, and Mona Tandon will discuss the Challenges in Developing Major Project Developments.

In addition to providing a lineup of energy leaders from around the region, we also provide attendees with the opportunity to get to know each other better, while taking part in one of our fun networking activities. For attendees who opt to sign up for our networking activities, you can participate in one of four options for your activity:

  • An 18-hole golf scramble at the challenging Skamania Lodge Golf Course.
  • A guided hike through the Columbia River Gorge.
  • A tour through some of Hood River’s best breweries and distilleries.
  • An instructor-led painting fueled by liquid courage and lunch taught by Vine Gogh Painting.

To see our most current agenda, click here or head over to the events tab. As always, please feel free to call us at 503-344-6637 if you have any questions about the event, or to find out more about sponsorship opportunities!

Jeff Burks to Present on Economic Impacts of the Potential Washington Carbon Rule

We are excited to have Jeff Burks on hand to discuss the implementation of Washington’s Clean Air rule and the requirement for 35 or more covered firms to reduce GHG emissions. This not only has important economic implications for the covered firms but will potentially impact the cost of energy, economic output, and jobs of the entire Washington State economy. Using IMPLAN I-O model. Energy Strategies economists have constructed a 536 sector model of the Washington state economy to evaluate the economic impact of the Clean Air rule. Burks will be presenting the preliminary results of Energy Strategies’ economic impact analysis of the proposed rule. Register for the Annual Energy Conference to hear Burks presentation.

Annual Energy Conference 2016

On June 9-10, we will proudly present the 13th Annual Energy Conference at Skamania Lodge. As always, we have a terrific group of sponsors and speakers lined up, and look forward to continuing to discuss the current events and the future of energy in the Northwest.

In addition to providing a lineup of energy leaders from around the region, we also provide attendees with the opportunity to get to know each other better, while taking part in one of our fun networking activities.

For attendees who opt to sign up for our networking activities, you can participate in one of four options for your activity:

  • An 18-hole golf scramble at the challenging Skamania Lodge Golf Course.
  • A guided hike through the Columbia River Gorge.
  • A tour through some of Hood River’s best breweries and distilleries.
  • An instructor-led painting, with a glass of liquid courage and lunch led by Vine Gogh Painting.

As a reminder, there is a limited number of space left at the Skamania Lodge Hotel. To make a hotel reservation call the lodge 1-800-221-7117, let them know you are attending the Energy Conference and use the code 1XW44T. The rate is discounted rate is $149 for a Forest View Room, $169 for a Riverview Room, plus taxes and a $20 resort fee.

To see our most current agenda, click here or head over to the events tab. Please stay tuned as we continue to update our speaker list. As always, please feel free to call us at 503-344-6637 if you have any questions about the event, or to find out more about sponsorship opportunities!

 

2016 State and Provincial Fact Sheet

The NWGA state and provincial fact sheets are updated and ready for 2016.  We find the the Fact Sheets extremely useful as we are out and about.  We typically leave them behind to highlight the natural gas industry within the Pacific Northwest region. We hope you will make use of them as much as we do. They are available on our website for downloading and printing at http://www.nwga.org/fact-sheets/.

AGA: Residential Natural Gas Bills Expected to be Lower Than 2014/15 Winter

Washington, D.C. – The direct use of natural gas continues to be the most affordable energy option for home heating and offers lower greenhouse gas emissions than other home energy sources. The American Gas Association (AGA) held its annual winter outlook event today where the Association explored expectations for the 2015-16 winter heating season. On average, residential natural gas bills may be 5 to 7 percent lower this winter compared to the previous winter.

“Abundant supplies, reasonable temperatures and a moderate increase in total U.S. demand may result in residential natural gas bills lower compared to last year,” said Bruce McDowell, AGA’s Managing Director of Policy Analysis. “This winter, many Americans on average may see the second-lowest bills they’ve seen in the past decade.”

Encouraging the increased use of natural gas can achieve significant efficiency improvements and carbon emissions reductions. The production of natural gas through its delivery into buildings is more efficient than grid-delivered electricity, propane, or oil. Even as more renewable sources are added to our nation’s electric generation mix, the direct use of natural gas will remain an efficient, affordable, and low-carbon option for consumers. AGA’s Manager of Policy Analysis Richard Meyer outlined the steady improvements in efficiency natural gas homes have made during the past four decades and the value of considering natural gas applications in meeting efficiency and emissions goals.

“As our nation continues to modernize the natural gas pipeline network and connect more homes and businesses to this system, new opportunities arise to achieve low-cost carbon emissions reductions by leveraging this existing infrastructure and the nation’s abundant natural gas resources.  Gas utility efficiency portfolios, conversion programs, consumer education campaigns, and other efforts may be leveraged to count emissions reductions that are consistent with broader federal, state, and local environmental goals currently under consideration, such as the EPA Clean Power Plan,” Meyer stated.

According to Chris McGill, AGA’s Vice President of Policy Analysis, the price of natural gas this winter is largely due to stable production and a strong underground storage position. Utilities work all year to prepare for the possibility of extreme temperatures and employ a portfolio approach to help ensure they can meet the needs of their customers at affordable prices on the coldest days of the year. Natural gas storage levels in the U.S. are nearing 4 trillion cubic feet and injection levels are among the highest ever.

You can view the entire presentation here.

NW Natural’s Washington Gas Customers to See a 14% Reduction in Rates

PORTLAND, Ore. — For the fifth time in seven years, NW Natural (NYSE:NWN), is requesting a rate reduction for Washington customers. If approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), customer rates will decrease by more than 14% starting Nov. 1.

This means customers will be paying less for natural gas than they did 15 years ago.

“This is great news for customers,” said Randy Friedman, director of NW Natural gas supply. “The cost of natural gas has continued to drop this year and is expected to remain low for the next few years.”

What customers can expect

The filing calls for a 14.4% drop in residential rates and a 15.2% reduction for commercial customers. That means the typical residential customer using an average of 58 therms per month would pay about $9.46 less, and the typical commercial customer would pay about $40 less per month.

How the rate filing process works

Each year, NW Natural files its purchased gas adjustment (PGA) with the WUTC. The purpose of the filing is to true-up differences between estimated and actual gas costs and to establish the cost of gas to be applied to customer bills for the Nov. through Oct. PGA cycle.

The company adjusts for gas cost changes each year. NW Natural does not profit from increases in gas costs. When it files the PGA, NW Natural typically files to revise rates for other annual adjustments based on ongoing agreements with the WUTC.

Regulators will issue a final decision on rates by the end of October, with new rates effective Nov. 1.

Westport and Fuel Systems Solutions Announce Intention to Merge

VANCOUVER, BC — Westport Innovations Inc. (TSX: WPT / Nasdaq: WPRT), and Fuel Systems Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSYS), today jointly announce that the companies have entered into a merger agreement to create a premier alternative fuel vehicle and engine company. The transaction will result in a combined equity value of $351 million based on the closing trading prices for the shares of both companies on August 31, 2015 and combined annual revenues ranging from $380 to $405 million projected for 2015. The combined company will benefit from complementary product solutions, and a fortified global footprint, with efficient operations and a core focus in developing next generation technology. The merger combines 17 brands in the automotive and industrial space and will allow customers and stakeholders to benefit from the consolidation of technologies, and the expansion of product portfolios, OEM relationships, and global distribution networks. The new entity will conduct business in more than 70 countries, represent a combined 100 years of experience and will trade on both the TSX and Nasdaq under the Westport Fuel Systems name, ticker symbol Nasdaq: WPRT and TSX: WPT, with a new business unit called Fuel Systems Automotive and Industrial Group. The companies’ respective boards of directors have unanimously approved this transaction.

Under the terms of the merger, Westport will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Fuel Systems common stock in a stock-for-stock transaction under which Fuel Systems shareholders will receive 2.129 Westport shares for each share of Fuel Systems common stock they own at closing, representing a 10% premium to Fuel Systems shareholders based on the closing trading prices of Westport’s and Fuel Systems’ shares on August 31, 2015 or an implied value to Fuel Systems shareholders of $7.54 per share. Following closing, existing Westport shareholders will hold approximately 64% of the combined company and Fuel Systems shareholders 36% of the combined company on a fully diluted basis. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals, including expiration or termination of the applicable waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and other customary closing conditions. The transaction is also subject to the required approval of both Fuel Systems and Westport’s shareholders. To date, shareholders owning 34% of Fuel Systems and 15% of Westport outstanding shares have each agreed to vote their shares in favor of the merger. Subject to the satisfaction of closing conditions and receipt of required approvals, the companies anticipate closing the transaction in the 4th quarter of 2015. Westport and Fuel Systems will operate as separate companies until that time.

“The merger of these two organizations, both rich in technology innovation and with proven track records of manufacturing, production and sales, will provide greater breadth of alternative fuel systems solutions as products and development engineering to OEM partners globally,” said David Demers, CEO of Westport. “We expect that the increased scale of products and consolidation of facilities will produce both cost-efficiencies and enhanced products, ultimately creating value for all our customers and our shareholders. This transaction marks a milestone in our strategic plans, whereby Westport will realize increased sales and significant cost efficiency opportunities while continuing to focus on the development, validation and launch of its proprietary Westport™ HPDI 2.0 and enhanced spark ignition technology.”

“After conducting a lengthy strategic evaluation process, Fuel Systems’ Strategic Oversight Committee determined that this opportunity creates significant returns for the shareholders of Fuel Systems,” stated Mariano Costamagna, CEO of Fuel Systems Solutions. “Bringing together these two premier companies in alternative fuel technology combines our technology expertise and long-standing relationships with global OEMs, our strong shared focus on improving profitability, and aligns our corporate cultures, creating an ideal fit. Through this transaction, we are creating a strong platform for growth in all of our addressable markets from which to best serve our customers. Our combined businesses and brands mean increased scale and relevance both internationally and in the U.S. We are confident that we have found the right partner, and look forward to working together as we integrate the two companies.” 

Traditionally, Westport has focused the majority of its technological development and commercialization efforts in the heavy-duty and high horsepower arena, while Fuel Systems has significant experience and focus in the light- and medium-duty products for automotive and industrial applications. The complementary industry expertise provides a compelling rationale for the merger, as the combined company’s product development efforts will span passenger car to heavy-duty trucks to locomotives and marine applications to stationary power. We believe there is significant potential for improved profitability even in current volatile market conditions, including untapped savings and merger synergies in excess of $30 million per year starting in 2016 and fully realized by calendar year 2018, excluding one-time costs. Included in the $30 million per year is $15 million in annualized benefits expected to be generated by Fuel Systems’ restructuring program in 2016 and beyond, Westport’s previously announced initiatives to reach adjusted EBITDA positive by mid-2016, and an additional $15 million in merger synergies through a combination of reductions in corporate management costs, manufacturing costs, and operating expenses. As the shift to alternative fuels accelerates, this merger will benefit customers, shareholders, employees and industry partners through its increased global reach, a broad technology vision, and significantly improved operational efficiencies.

FortisBC encourages education about Customer Choice program on the Island

SURREY, B.C. – With the launch of the Customer Choice residential program in Whistler, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Powell River beginning in November, FortisBC is encouraging customers to take their time and make the choice that’s right for them. Part of this decision is reviewing information about Customer Choice – either from the guide the gas marketer is required to provide customers or from the FortisBC website.

“We encourage customers to ask the marketer questions about the terms of the contract, including the length of the contract, the price of natural gas throughout the duration of the contract, and what happens if you move,” said Roger Dall’Antonia, executive vice president, customer service & regulatory affairs, FortisBC. “Gas marketers are required to provide this information, and customers can find more questions to ask on our website.”

Through the Customer Choice program, licensed natural gas marketers began selling long-term, fixed price natural gas contracts to residential natural gas users in Whistler, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Powell River as of August 1, 2015. Contracts signed now will take effect after the program begins in November. Customer Choice in these regions was brought about through amalgamation of our three natural gas companies January 1, resulting in all customers having access to the same programs and services across our service territories. The program has been available to natural gas customers in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Interior and Kootenays since 2007.

Details about the Customer Choice program and questions to ask a gas marketer are available at fortisbc.com/choice. Customers may also consider the following information when deciding if Customer Choice is right for them:

  • Gas prices quoted by marketers are not regulated by the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC), however, the BCUC is responsible for licensing gas marketing companies and ensuring they adhere to a code of conduct.
  • Most gas marketers have the discretion to allow customers to return to the FortisBC variable rate on the anniversary date of the contract. Penalties and stipulations that arise from the early termination of contracts vary. FortisBC does not charge any fees if a customer chooses to return to the variable rate.
  • If customers have a problem with their gas marketer agreement, they should first contact the marketer to resolve the matter. If the issue is not resolved, customers can log a dispute about their gas marketer agreement with the BCUC. Visit fortisbc.com/choice for the link to do this online or contact FortisBC customer service.
  • If customers do not have a contract with a gas marketer but wish to log a complaint about a gas marketer’s business practices, they can do so on bcuc.com.

All parties involved in the Customer Choice program work together to improve the program continually. Each year, the program is reviewed by FortisBC, the BCUC, various customer groups and all licensed gas marketers. The review process identifies opportunities to improve the program for current and future customers, and involves a workshop to discuss the business rules of the program, systems solutions, and customer protection and education. Based on the workshop discussion, FortisBC submits recommendations for changes and improvements to the BCUC in the form of a report describing what should be approved and implemented. The most recent report was filed by FortisBC in August, and a decision is expected by the BCUC this fall. The report is available on fortisbc.com and bcuc.com.

See backgrounder for more information on the Customer Choice program.

Customer Choice backgrounder

In 2002, the B.C. provincial government laid the groundwork for increased consumer choice in its 2002 Energy Policy, with a statement about its desire to provide more choice for small volume natural gas consumers. Small volume consumers include residential and many commercial users. Around the same time, research conducted by FortisBC (then Terasen Gas) revealed that customers wanted help to manage their gas costs with options that included long-term, fixed-rate contracts.

In 2004, a portion of B.C.’s natural gas market was opened to competition, allowing many commercial customers to purchase gas from companies other than FortisBC. In 2006, the B.C. Utilities Commission took the final step in introducing greater customer choice by allowing residential customers to purchase natural gas from companies other than FortisBC. Residential customers in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Interior and Kootenays have been able to sign contracts with gas marketers since May 1, 2007. Residential and commercial customers can choose to buy natural gas from gas marketers or they can continue to buy natural gas from FortisBC. Gas marketers are allowed to offer fixed price contracts for a minimum duration of one year, and in one-year increments, up to a maximum of five years.

Independent gas marketers were permitted by the BCUC to sell gas door-to-door in Whistler, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Powell River beginning August, 2015, as part of amalgamation of the gas utilities in those service areas. Contracts signed with a gas marketer for these customers will take effect after November 1, 2015.

Gas marketers are independent companies that sell natural gas directly to customers. They make money by selling natural gas under different pricing terms and conditions related to pricing. They use a variety of buying strategies to source their gas and then sell it using different pricing arrangements that allow them to earn a profit. The FortisBC variable rate is a flow-through cost to customers, meaning customers pay what we pay for the gas. FortisBC does not earn a profit from the sale of the natural gas commodity.

Some questions to ask a gas marketer before you sign a long-term supply contract:

Cover the basics:

  • What is your price in Canadian dollars per gigajoule of gas?
  • How long is the term of this contract?
  • Is the price per gigajoule of gas fixed over the entire term of the contract or can it vary?
  • How does your gas price compare to other gas marketers’ fixed prices and FortisBC’ variable prices?
  • What will happen to my gas supply contract if I move?

Understand the terms of the contract:

  • What is the start and end date of this contract?
  • What are the contract’s renewal provisions?
  • If I am not satisfied with the agreement and want to cancel within the 10-day cancellation period, what is the best way to contact you?
  • After my 10-day cancellation period has ended, what are the rights and penalties for early termination of the agreement?
  • Does this contract end at the expiration date, or will it roll over into another contract if you receive no further direction from me?
  • What are the benefits of signing a fixed-term contract?

Clarify what you’re committing to:

  • What are the financial obligations I’m committing to when I sign this contract?
  • What are the additional charges that could potentially arise from signing this contract?
  • What happens to my gas supply if your business fails?
  • Does signing this contract commit me to receive other utility services, such as electricity, telecom or cable?

FortisBC has no role in overseeing the actions of the gas marketers. The BCUC is responsible for licensing gas marketers and ensuring they adhere to a code of conduct. For more information about the code of conduct, and for a list of gas marketers licensed to do business in B.C., visit fortisbc.com/choice or bcuc.com

After signing an agreement with a gas marketer:

Residential customers receive a confirmation letter from FortisBC that provides a summary of the agreement entered into with the gas marketer. The letter also provides a deadline date by which time consumers must call the gas marketer if they want to cancel the agreement. This is the 10-day cancellation period mandated by the BCUC.

Most gas marketers have the discretion to allow customers to return to the FortisBC variable rate on the anniversary date of the contract. Gas marketer contract penalties and stipulations that arise from the early termination of contracts vary. FortisBC does not charge any fees if a customer chooses to return to the variable rate.

Customers who wish to return to the FortisBC variable rate should check their contract for details and should contact their marketer at least 90 days before the anniversary date of their contract if they want to terminate it.

If customers have a problem with their gas marketer agreement, they should first contact the marketer to resolve the matter. If the issue is not resolved, customers can initiate logging a dispute about their gas marketer agreement by contacting FortisBC. To contact FortisBC customer service, call 1-888-224-2710.

 

Intermountain Gas Company files annual PGA

BOISE, IDAHO – – Intermountain Gas Company filed its annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) application with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to change its prices by an overall average decrease of 5.69%, or $15.3 million. If approved, the decrease would be effective Oct.1, 2015. The primary reason behind the proposed decrease is a decline in the price of natural gas that Intermountain purchases for its customers. With this proposed decrease, Intermountain’s combined residential and commercial prices would be 35% lower as compared to 2005. Intermountain’s earnings will not decrease as a result of the proposed change in prices and revenues.

If approved, residential customers using natural gas for space and water heating will see an average decrease of 6.11%, or $3.12 per month. Customers using natural gas for space heating only will see an average decrease of $1.36 per month, or 3.56%, based on average weather and usage. Commercial customers, on average, would see a decrease of $12.15 per month or 5.66%.

“Hart has shown great leadership ability in his previous positions with the company and I look forward to his continued success in this new role,” said Scott Madison, executive vice president and general manager for Intermountain Gas. “His extensive natural gas operational experience will be a great fit on our executive team.” The company is also proposing to eliminate the temporary surcharges and credits that have been included in its current prices during the past year. Newer temporary surcharges and credits will be included going forward.

Scott Madison, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Intermountain said, “The decrease in the cost of natural gas is mainly a supply and demand issue, and natural gas supplies remain plentiful. Additionally, last winter’s warm weather in the western U.S reduced demand on natural gas storage levels in our region, adding to the availability of natural gas heading into next winter. We continue to see increased domestic natural gas production, and we anticipate prices will remain fairly stable in the coming year.”

Even with this proposed price decrease, Intermountain continues to urge all its customers to use energy wisely. Conservation tips, information on government payment energy assistance, and programs to help customers level out their energy bills over the year can be found on the company’s website,www.intgas.com.

A Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment application is filed each year to ensure the costs Intermountain incurs on behalf of its customers are reflected in its sales prices. The request is a proposal, and is subject to public review and approval by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. A copy of the application is available at the Commission’s office and on its homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov as well as at the bottom of this article via the link titled “Rate Case – Full Filling Document – August 07, 2014”.

Rate Case – Full Filing Document – August 07, 2014

Avista Requests Natural Gas Rate Decrease for Oregon Customers in Annual Cost Adjustment Filing

SPOKANE, WA-  Avista’s approximately 98,000 customers in Oregon could see an overall decrease of 13.3 percent in their natural gas rates effective Nov. 1, 2015, if the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) approves the company’s annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) and related filings.

If the requests are approved, Avista residential customers using an average of 46 therms a month could expect their bill to decrease by $7.55, or 12.1 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $54.92 beginning Nov. 1, 2015. Avista’s natural gas revenues would decrease by $13.8 million to cover the decreased natural gas costs. The company does not mark up the cost of natural gas purchased to meet customer needs, so there is no impact on company earnings.

PGAs are filed each year to balance the actual cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista to serve customers with the amount included in rates. This includes the natural gas commodity cost as well as the cost to transport natural gas on interstate pipelines to Avista’s local distribution system. The primary driver for the company’s requested decrease is a reduction in natural gas commodity costs due to a warmer than normal winter, an abundance of natural gas held in storage, and continued high production levels of natural gas.

In addition to the PGA request, Avista also proposed two smaller rate adjustments related to demand side management program funding and intervener funding.

About 40 percent of an Avista natural gas customer’s bill is the combined cost of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and transporting it to Avista’s system. These costs fluctuate up and down based on market prices. The costs are not marked up by Avista. The remaining 60 percent covers the cost of delivering the natural gas — the equipment and people needed to provide safe and reliable service.