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Cumberland, Falmouth, Yarmouth to discuss 2 natural gas proposals

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Cumberland, Falmouth, Yarmouth to discuss 2 natural gas proposals

CUMBERLAND — The town councils of Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth will discuss the merits of two natural gas company proposals at meetings on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Summit Natural Gas and Maine Natural Gas are competing to extend natural gas service into the three communities. Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane solicited proposals last fall from three companies on behalf of the towns; Unitil, formerly Northern Utilities, did not submit a proposal by the Jan. 25 deadline.

In an e-mail last week that shared the proposals, Shane called the endeavor "a huge project for the region" that "will be a great benefit to our residents and businesses."

He added that the towns were "very pleased to have received two competitive proposals for our region and we all are very excited to get to work in bringing natural gas to our Towns."

Maine Natural Gas

Maine Natural Gas is proposing having its gas system operational and services to the first customers off a trunkline by December 2014.

The company said it would offer commercial customers a rebate of half the conversion cost, up to $1,000, for switching to natural gas; residential customers would receive a rebate of half the conversion costs, up to $1,500.

Maine Natural Gas estimates a savings of $955 per year for the average residential customer, based on a heating oil price of $3.75 per gallon. The average commercial customer would save nearly $7,400 in energy expenses, according to the company.

The company would build the project with its own financing, and has committed to spend about $60 million over the course of 10 years to complete the process. Maine Natural Gas said it assumes the use of tax increment financing for the project, with 80 percent of its property tax liability reduced between 2014 and 2023.

Maine Natural Gas said it plans to bring service to more than 64 percent of residences and businesses in the three towns.

Summit Natural Gas

Summit Natural Gas would invest about $9.5 million in main-line transmission piping and an additional $63 million in distribution and service lines for the towns.

The company expects to begin gas flow in the three towns in the third quarter of 2014, and serve about 6,000 residential and commercial customers by the end of its third year in operation. It intends to reach 80 percent saturation in the three towns by the third quarter of 2017, and about 95 percent saturation by 2023.

Summit has been authorized by the Maine Public Utilities Commission to provide a maximum rebate of 75 percent of conversion costs, up to $1,500, for residences. Low-income residential customers who have been OK'd for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program assistance will receive a maximum rebate of 100 percent of conversion costs, with a cap of $4,000.

Summit said it does not need a TIF to build a pipeline or distribution lines, but noted that it is willing to work with the three communities to establish a pipeline-related district if that strategy is desired by the towns.

The company projects a savings of $1,100 a year for the average resident who switches from heating oil to natural gas, based on an oil price of $3.60 per gallon. The savings could be as much as $1,600 a year with energy-efficiency upgrades, according to the company.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.