Gas Standard Carries Cost for Co-opsBy Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: June 25th, 2013
The group that writes national heating and air conditioning standards is weighing a change that NRECA says would hurt electric cooperatives by boosting the use of natural gas in many commercial buildings.
A new standard would replace the longtime use of an all-electric “baseline building” and require instead that natural gas serve as the baseline for many commercial buildings, including schools, motels and fire stations.
For co-ops with limited access to natural gas, the rule could add costs and paperwork, according to Keith Dennis, NRECA senior principal, end-use solutions and standards.
“This proposed change would have negative impacts on rural electric co-ops and those consumer-members that they serve who lack, among other things, access to natural gas service,” Dennis told the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ Standards Board in a May 31 letter.
For proposed buildings where natural gas is unavailable, the baseline HVAC system could be modeled using propane as the fuel source, according to the proposal, but only after meeting additional administrative requirements.
The board is expected to respond as early as June 21 to a complaint filed by NRECA about the pending rule change.
The issue is also expected to be considered by committees at the annual ASHRAE meeting in Denver, June 22-26. If an appeal of the standard is accepted, the committee hearing process will take place during the July and August timeframe. Otherwise, the standard will go forward.
“While there is no publicly available statistic on the percentage of co-op consumers with access to natural gas service, we believe that the majority of our consumers do not have access to natural gas service,” Dennis said.
NRECA is willing to survey its membership to determine the availability of natural gas for co-ops. On average, co-ops serve 7.4 electric consumers per mile of electrical line.
“That means it would be very costly to build new gas service to the average member,” Dennis said. “In fact, cooperatives were formed precisely, because it was often not economical to bring electric service to remote rural areas, much less natural gas service.”