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Fine Print: Saving Dollars for Gas Customers by Cutting Usage

Utility seeks to extend program that rewards consumer and business customers for stepping up to high-efficiency equipment.

What it is: New Jersey Natural Gas is proposing to extend its energy efficiency program for an additional four years, beginning next January, if approved by the state Board of Public Utilities.

What it does: It offers grants and rebates to customers of the Wall Township utility to upgrade their water-heating equipment as well as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment.

Why it is important: The state's Energy Master Plan calls for a dramatic reduction in how much energy residents and businesses consume. Most experts say one of the best ways to achieve that goal is to do it through utilities, which already have a relationship with their customers.

How residential customers can benefit: Customers who install high-efficiency heating or water equipment will be eligible to receive a $300 grant. If both high-efficiency heating and water equipment are installed at the same time, customers can qualify for a $900 grant. Or they have the opportunity to participate in an on-bill repayment plan for up to $6,500 at zero percent interest for five years.

How commercial customers can benefit: For small commercial customers, the utility proposes to match the state's clean energy program grants up to $15,000 for the installation of high-efficiency equipment, such as natural-gas fired furnaces, boilers, and heaters. For large commercial customers, it plans to match state grants up to $25,000.

What the program has achieved in the past: Since its inception in 2009, the program, dubbed SaveGreen, has created 27 full-time positions at the utility, completed more than 15,000 energy audits, and awarded nearly 17,000 grants for high-efficiency upgrades.

What's new about the program: For the first time, the utility will be offering an oil tank removal grant. It plans to offer oil customers who convert to high-efficiency natural gas equipment up to $800 for the removal of an above-ground tank or $1,200 for a below-ground tank.

What it will cost consumers: For the typical customer using 100 therms a month, the rate impact for the extensions, as well as current programs, is expected to be an increase of 1.7 percent, or $2. If approved by the BPU, the proposed effective date for this change is January 1, 2013.

What the utility says about the program: "SaveGreen has been an incredible success in helping customers choose energy efficiency options and encourage job creation," said Laurence M. Downes, chairman and CEO of New Jersey Natural Gas. "Since the average homeowner replaces their furnace only once every 15 to 20 years, it is critically important that we help make upgrading to high efficiency the easy choice."

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