NS: UARB decision clears the way for Heritage Gas expansion

Darrell Cole, The Amherst News
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The company says a decision by the Utility and Review Board should help it expand the availability of natural gas in Amherst and Oxford.

Darrell Cole - Cumberlandnewsnow.com

[AMHERST, NS] - A decision last week by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board could lead to an expansion of natural gas in Amherst and Oxford.

The company, that brought natural gas to Amherst in 2005 and Oxford in October 2012, has been given permission to change the way it calculated whether it’s worth it to bring natural gas to a street.

Under the change, potential customers will no longer have to commit to a contract. An expression of interest will now be enough for Heritage Gas to expand.

“We expect this decision to help anywhere we have operations. Primarily, it will help us expand into existing residential streets,” vice president Chris Smith said. “In Amherst, there are a number of mature neighbourhoods. We don’t need help getting into new developments where there are new houses. This will make it easier for us to go down a street that has houses that have been around for years.”

Smith said the UARB decision will allow it to set up a fund of $1 million a year to help pay for expansion into older neighbourhoods.

“Before we may have needed to have 100 per cent of the customers signed up, now we don’t. We still want to have interest, of course, but this fund will help us satisfy the economic conditions a little differently than before,” Smith said. “We’ll be able to do more purely residential streets that we couldn’t do before.”

Smith said Heritage Gas has had a lot of success bringing natural gas to most neighbourhoods in Amherst, but there are still a few streets it could not get to under the previous rules.

“Customers will still have to express their interest to us before we do anything so we’re encouraging them to contact us or go to our website and fill out an expression of interest form,” Smith said.

Smith said natural gas remains popular in Amherst. The company continues to add approximately 50 customers a year in the town. This is happening despite a spike in natural gas prices.

He said the UARB’s second decision – one that will allow it to develop plans and storage for mainland natural gas storage – should help stabilize the cost of fuel.

In Amherst, the number of natural gas customers has grown from 58 in 2005 to 463, whiel in Oxford there are 34 customers.

The company is continuing to expand in Halifax and is looking to bring natural gas to Pictou County.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board

Geographic location: AMHERST, Oxford, Halifax Pictou County

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