February 14, 2019

Whitehouse, King Introduce Innovative Bill to Help Consumers Save on Natural Gas

Proposal would leverage states’ success with demand response programs to reduce costs and get more from existing natural gas infrastructure

Washington, DC – Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Angus King (I-ME) introduced a bill today to encourage natural gas utilities and companies to launch demand response programs, a well-established model that rewards consumers for reducing energy use.  The legislation would leverage states’ success in implementing demand response pilot programs that have proven highly effective.  In addition to the potential cost savings, demand response programs can guard against price spikes and reduce the need to expand natural gas infrastructure.

“Using energy more wisely is a win for everyone involved.  It helps cut energy costs for consumers, eases the strain on our infrastructure, and reduces the pollution driving climate change,” said Senator Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  “Demand response is proven in the electricity sector, and is already working for a growing number of American natural gas consumers.  Our bill would build on that success.”

“Response programs have proven they can save energy and cut costs for consumers, which is essential in states like Maine that are saddled with some of the highest energy costs per capita,” said Senator King, member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “This is a common sense bill that will expand and strengthen these programs so we can mitigate the effects of climate change and support people in Maine and across the country who need affordable ways to heat their homes during the winter.”

Demand response programs compensate customers for cutting their energy use during times of high prices or when infrastructure reliability is threatened, like during a heat wave or cold snap.  The senators’ bill would direct the Department of Energy to establish a pilot program allowing gas utilities, local distribution companies, and other stakeholders to develop demand response programs to provide greater flexibility in distributing natural gas. 

“CLF commends Senator Whitehouse for introducing this bill,” said Jerry Elmer, Senior Attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation.  “If enacted, this legislation would have the twin benefits of addressing climate change by reducing emissions of natural gas, a powerful greenhouse gas, and benefit ratepayers by reducing customer bills.  This is a win-win for the environment and for the public.”

Natural gas demand response has the potential to reduce gas use significantly.  Preliminary analysis by the Brattle Group suggests a natural gas demand response program for heating homes in New England could save 40 million cubic feet of natural gas on a peak day—five percent of the average power sector demand for gas in the region during the winter months. 

Whitehouse introduced similar legislation in the 115th Congress, a portion of which was signed into law last June.

Full text of the senators’ bill is accessible here.


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