By Coastal Breeze News Staff
Starting this month, former customers of Balgas, a propane supplier, are looking to see if they will reap the projected savings after TECO took over the propane utility and converted it to natural gas.
“The equipment charge and conversion fee were $4,000 for us,” explains Curt Koon, co-owner of CJ’s on the Bay, a bar and restaurant located in the Esplanade plaza. “We expect that fee will have paid for itself in about three to four months, based on cost savings projections [provided by TECO].”
Natural gas prices float and are subject to short-term supply and demand fluctuations, just as petroleum prices do, resulting in large price movements to bring the two back into line, according to the US Energy Information Adminstration [EIA], an independent source of industry analysis.
“We were given the option to lock in prices for season or float, but I wasn’t overly concerned,” adds Koon.
Propane is generally subject to seasonal demand, with price spikes in winter as supply dwindles and its prices tend to follow crude oil prices, according to the EIA. Koon pointed out the TECO’s price projections claim that it will provide more competitive pricing than that of propane.
Cherie Jacobs is a TECO spokesperson. “Expanding gas service is a key part of TECO Energy’s strategic plan. Twenty-four customers have switched from propane to natural gas, including six hotels and eight restaurants.”
Jacobs added that TECO hopes to add 100 additional customers in 2013 and is improving infrastructure accordingly. Plans include adding about 7,000 feet of new line on Bald Eagle Drive and adding about 7,500 feet of new line “to the south.”
Anne Feinman, manager at Mango’s Dockside Bistro, also located in the Esplanade plaza, said the conversion was painless. “We had two hours of downtime while TECO changed the equipment, but we were able to continue with breakfast and lunch service, which was pretty seamless.”
Feinman is waiting for her first TECO bill, to see if TECO’s claims to competitive cost savings will hold true for her.
Propane is considered a clean-burning fuel derived from petroleum or natural gas. Natural gas is also considered a clean-burning fuel, but the means to obtaining it have come under criticism. ‘Fracking,’ which involves pumping liquids under shale rock formations to explode them and expose the gas, has been shown to have a significant negative impact on the surrounding environment and water supply.
Recent years have seen trends in creating natural gas by alternative means by using organic plant material.