Danner Named Washington UTC Chair

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee today named David W. Danner as the new chairman of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

Danner has been the agency’s executive director since 2005. He was previously energy and telecommunications policy advisor to Gov. Gary Locke, a member of the state’s Pollution Control and Shorelines Hearings boards, and an attorney in private practice.

“The commission plays a key role in promoting the state’s economy and securing our energy future,” Inslee said. “Dave understands this. He has a deep understanding of the issues, strong environmental values, and a commitment to making Washington a leader in the new economy.”

The UTC regulates the rates and services of the state’s investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities, landline telephone companies, solid waste haulers, and private water systems, among other industries. The agency also manages the state’s pipeline, railroad, and intrastate bus and trucking safety programs.

Danner will take over as chairman from Jeffrey Goltz, who will continue on the three-member commission, along with Commissioner Philip Jones.

“I am honored that Gov. Inslee has selected me for this position,” Danner said. “This is a time of change for many of the industries we regulate, and I look forward to joining Jeff and Phil in addressing some very complex and challenging issues.”

Danner is a graduate of Columbia University, and has a law degree from George Washington University and a master’s degree in communications from the University of Washington.

Natural Gas Term of the Week: Unconventional Gas

What it means: Natural gas that cannot be economically produced using current technology.

See it in action: The past few years have seen previously unconventional gas, in the form of deep shale resources, become conventional via the successful use of hydraulic fracturing.

What’s the next unconventional resource to be developed?  The crown jewel of unconventional gas could be methane hydrates, natural gas trapped in ice like structures on the ocean floor. There are currently no commercially viable methods to extract methane hydrates; however, some analysts project that they could account for centuries worth of natural gas supply at current levels of natural gas use.

Natural Gas Terms of the Week are posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.

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AGA: Natural Gas Utility Efficiency Measures Saved Consumers $300 Million in 2011

Washington, D.C. – Natural gas utilities increased their investment in natural gas efficiency programs to nearly $958 million in 2011, according to a new report released today by the American Gas Association (AGA). This resulted in total savings of more than $300 million for natural gas customers in the United States last year – about $107 per household – and offset 6.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The Natural Gas Efficiency Programs Report for 2011 presents data from AGA member companies and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, and outlines how utilities are helping customers save even more on what is already America’s most efficient and affordable energy choice.

“Natural gas utilities are helping customers save on their monthly energy bills, making it even easier for them to access the benefits of natural gas,” said Ron Jibson, president and CEO of Questar, Corp. and AGA Chairman. “From simply upgrading insulation to providing subsidies for high-efficiency natural gas appliance purchases, energy efficiency programs help ensure that natural gas users are getting the best possible value for their energy use. This is just another example of how natural gas utilities are making people’s lives better every day.”

Natural gas utilities are continuing to increase this commitment to delivering energy savings. In 2012, utilities budgeted nearly $1.4 billion toward efficiency programs – a 46 percent increase compared to 2011 spending levels. Added to low domestic natural gas prices, which have led to savings of almost $35 billion for residential natural gas customers over the past three years, efficiency programs help ensure that natural gas remains the best value fuel for consumers.

“This investment demonstrates a true commitment to improving the way we use energy in this country,” said AGA CEO and President Dave McCurdy. “Innovations in appliance technology have resulted in natural gas furnaces and boilers that can achieve 97 percent efficiency. Utilities are harnessing these and other cutting-edge technologies to help reduce energy use, which in turn helps our environment, improves energy security and delivers big savings to the customer.”

Utilities across the country provide valuable tools, incentives and information to help their customers understand and reduce their energy usage and their carbon footprint. Your local natural gas utility may offer home energy audits, weatherization kits and programmable thermostats, as well as provide information on the latest technology in high-efficiency natural gas appliances. Utility energy efficiency programs also help low-income customers with bill payment assistance, low or no-cost equipment replacement and weatherization assistance that can reduce a home heating bill by an average of $437 per year.

Read an executive summary of the study and the full report here.

AGA Chairman Jibson Outlines how Natural Gas can help Address National Priorities

New York, NY – America’s natural gas utilities are at the forefront of an energy revolution, delivering exceptional value to their customers, shareholders and our nation. Ron Jibson, Chairman of the American Gas Association spoke today to the New York Society of Security Analysts where he outlined how America’s domestic abundance of this clean energy source will transform the way we use energy and help address many of our national priorities including boosting our economy.

“Domestic natural gas supplies are expected to be sufficiently robust to meet even significant growth in demand across all sectors at reasonable and relatively stable prices for the next decade and beyond,” said Jibson. “America’s natural gas utilities operate the largest and most efficient energy delivery system in the world, capable of continuing to deliver this fuel safely and reliably throughout the United States. With the tremendous advances being made in direct and distributed use in homes, businesses, industry and vehicles, everyone can have access to the promises of natural gas.”

AGA believes it is possible for the United States to produce more than 80 Bcf of natural gas per day by 2022 if demand requirements develop to require such production growth. Affordable prices and a future of market stability provide an opportunity to make long-term investments throughout the natural gas value chain. These investments create jobs and improve the safety and reliability of our infrastructure for years to come.

Mr. Jibson, who is chairman, president and CEO of Questar Corporation (NYSE: STR) in Salt Lake City, made the financial case for investing in local natural gas utilities, highlighting the financial strength and growth opportunities in the energy utility sector as demonstrated in the performance of the Hennessy Gas Utility Index Fund (MUTF: GASFX) against the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Utilities Average over the past 10 years.

Mr. Jibson also mentioned the American Taxpayer Relief Act that enacted low tax rates for dividends permanent which will help utilities expand and rebuild critical infrastructure, in turn, helping to meet the nation’s energy needs. Most AGA members have paid dividends continuously for more than 50 years.