PUC and UGI agree on smaller, two-step rate increase

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has approved a joint settlement with UGI Utilities’ Gas Division that will phase in a rate increase over two steps and at a substantially smaller rate than the company originally requested. 

The joint settlement allows for a $38 million increase in UGI revenues, effective Oct. 29,2022 to be followed by an additional $11.45 million increase, effective Oct. 1, 2023. 

 The PUC said under the terms of the settlement, the average bill for a residential customer using 73.1 cubic feet per month of natural gas will increase from a current bill of $92.49 per month to $96.93, effective Oct. 29, 2022 – and rise to $98.21, effective Oct. 1, 2023.  

That two-step process will result in a total increase in the average bill of $5.71 (6.2%) between now and October 2023, compared to a $9.39 per month (9.5%) increase that was included in UGI’s initial request. 

The settlement also includes enhancements to UGI’s customer assistance and universal service programs, including: 

  • Additional annual funding, extended eligibility, and increased maximum project size for the Low-Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP). 
  • Expanded eligibility for UGI’s Operation Share grant program, along with additional funding for winter 2022-2023. 
  • A pilot program to identify and engage with potential low-income customers. 
  • Continued simplified application process for LIHEAP recipients seeking to enroll in UGI’s Customer Assistance Program (CAP). 
  • Continued active outreach to customers who have not recertified for CAP. 

UGI provides natural gas service to approximately 672,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in over 45 counties across Pennsylvania. 




UGI Energy Services invests in renewable natural gas  

Wyomissing-based UGI Energy Services LLC, a subsidiary of UGI Corp., announced Tuesday an agreement with MBL Bioenergy to fund the first set of renewable natural gas projects under development in South Dakota. 

This will represent $70 million-plus of investment by MBL Bioenergy, 100% of which will be provided by UGI Energy Services. With the purpose of developing renewable natural gas projects in South Dakota, MBL Bioenergy is a joint venture partnership among UGI Energy Services, Sevana Bioenergy and a subsidiary of California Bioenergy. 

The first set of projects, to be built at three farms north of Sioux Falls, is expected to annually generate approximately 300 million cubic feet of renewable natural gas, known as RNG, when it’s finished in 2024. Dairy waste will be anaerobically digested and then piped to a central upgrading facility before delivery into the interstate natural gas system near Dell Rapids. 

UGI Energy Services, through its subsidiary GHI Energy, will be MBL Bioenergy’s exclusive marketer. 

“This project sets a new standard for UGI in terms of scope and size and represents a huge milestone in UGI’s investments in, and expected earnings contribution from, RNG projects,” Robert F. Beard, UGI’s executive vice president of natural gas, global engineering, construction and procurement, said in a release. 

“We are pleased to be partnering with industry-leading developers on this project that will substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, using dairy RNG as a vehicle fuel.” 

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer. 

Why companies like PPL, Talen and UGI are banking their future on renewable energy

Could combining wind turbines with oceans and waterways, reclaiming natural gases such as methane and more widespread use of solar technology be renewable energy’s next frontier?

The drive to convert Industrial Age legacy dependence on fossil fuels like coal to clean and sustainable alternative energy resources is being fueled by voters, driven by political mandates and embraced by new technology innovators and energy generation companies.

“The change in how humans are going to behave or adapt to what I call global warming and resources opening up” could revolutionize how we create and use energy to power daily life, said Arindham Banerjee, professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.

During his first days in office President Joe Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement (climate accord) and pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to half the 2005 level by 2030, according to whitehouse.gov.

Banerjee teaches Lehigh students to look at hydroelectric power generation – a historically ancient method for creating power to run equipment and complete tasks, in cutting-edge ways. Twenty-first century hydroelectric energy may combine wind turbines with ocean and tidal energy movement to power large scale power grids and reduce carbon emissions.

Building devices into a river that could capture energy from the river flow would be an ideal application, Banerjee said.

New sustainable energy practices could create clean manufacturing jobs, boost a battered post COVID-19 economy by about $1.7 trillion and add more than a half million new jobs annually, according to a Forbes.com report.

Nearly 100% of Iceland’s power comes from renewable hydro and geothermal sources, according to the United Nations website. While Iceland sits in a unique position with respect to natural resources, and may not work for a country the size of the U.S., Banerjee said much can be learned from the island nation’s commitment to clean energy.

High population densities in U.S. coastal areas could create a prime application for water/wind farm generation, where U.S. populations are most dense, Banerjee said.

According to the American GEO Sciences Institute website, creating turbine wind farms offshore can dramatically increase the efficiency of wind power. Wind power created by water currents can be converted to usable electricity.

“The industry is trying to level up tech that will assist in making sure [wind turbines] are stable, operate all the time and can sustain some of the hundred year storms that occur at sea,” Banerjee said.

Floating turbines are one solution, as are cabling systems rooted to the ocean floor – though ocean depth escalates costs and risks to the turbines.
Wind power platform rigs similar to those used in the oil industry could be another option for placing turbine equipment.

In addition to upfront costs, equipment must be able to withstand wear and tear and operate for at least 20 years at sea or along inland tidal waters.

While the engineering challenges required to create adequately-sized ocean or waterway wind farms needed to power the east coast’s grid are massive, the impact of harvesting renewable energy from 20 miles offshore could be substantial – and game changing, Banerjee said.

PPL in Allentown has committed to reduce its 2010 carbon emissions by at least 70% by 2040, and 80% by 2050, said Christine Martin, PPL vice president of public affairs and sustainability.

“We are investing in our grid to enable increased electrification and large-scale additions of distributed energy resources… supporting the growth of technologies like solar power, energy storage and electric vehicles,” Martin said.

Implementing smart grid technology has been “essential in aiding the transition to a net-zero future,” she said.

Along with retiring coal-fired generation plants, PPL is investing in clean technology to further reduce emissions.

“Collectively, the U.S. electric power sector’s carbon emissions are at their lowest level in more than 40 years and continue to fall,” Martin said “Our industry can be part of the solution to reduce emissions in other industries.”

Talen Energy in Allentown, an independent power producer, plans to convert wholly-owned coal facilities to natural gas, or oil with renewable energy and battery storage “co-located around them,” said Taryne Williams, Talen media and communications manager.

“Talen will be constructing two 20 megawatt (MW) solar installations on closed coal ash basins around the retired Holtwood (Lancaster County) and Sunbury (Northumberland County), coal plants, which were owned and operated by Talen’s predecessor company,” Williams said.

Talen was spun off by PPL in 2015 to become an independent company.
Both of these solar projects have expected operation dates by the end of the year.

“We are excited about these projects because they will help turn what is currently limited-use land into space that produces renewable, solar power for the grid,” she said.

Installing the solar arrays would maintain their environmental integrity on the former coal ash basins, reinventing the land for a new energy use, she said.

In addition to converting the coal ash basins, sulfur dioxide from flue exhaust is being captured and used to produce gypsum, a component of wallboard, also known as Sheetrock, used in the construction industry.

Fly ash and related coal combustion by-products from its plants at Brunner Island in York Haven and Brandon Shores in Curtis Bay, Maryland, are being used in the cement industry and for other manufacture engineered products.

Other uses for landfill ash as a construction material aggregate, as well as rare earth elements (RRE) from ash to manufactured products or components for use in electronics, renewable energy technologies and military hardware are also being explored, Williams said.

At UGI Corporation, solar field operations and renewable natural gases or RNGs open the door to additional sustainable clean energy resources.
Methane from landfills, farming operation byproducts and sewage treatment plants can be reclaimed and converted to RNGs also generally known as biogas.

“It [these gases] can be cleaned and made available for customer use,” said Keith G. Dorman, UGI Corporation vice president, communications and community relations – Natural Gas in Denver, Lancaster County.

The firm’s goal is to lower direct carbon emissions 55 percent over the next five years, he said.

UGI announced a partnership with Global Common Energy to develop renewable biogas at Spruce Haven Farm, a dairy farm in Cayuga County, New York, in a May 4, 2021 press release.

“These projects also provide the dairies (many family-owned and operated) with financial support by monetizing a former waste stream,” said Robert J. Foxen, president of Global Common Energy in the press release.

The target project completion date is sometime in 2022.

“It’s a rapidly evolving environment. I think it’s where energy companies have been early investors in new sources,” Dorman said.

Walsh to retire as UGI president, CEO; Perreault named as successor

Walsh and Perreault

UGI Corp. President and CEO John Walsh has announced he plans to retire in June. The 65-year-old has served as CEO of the energy distribution company since 2013 and has been a president and a member of the board of directors since 2005.

Walsh will be replaced by Roger Perreault, 57, who will become president and CEO of UGI and join the board of directors upon Walsh’s retirement.

Perreault currently serves as UGI’s executive vice president of Global LPG and president of UGI subsidiary, UGI International LLC.

“During John’s time as president and CEO, the company experienced significant growth and value creation for UGI shareholders and executed on key strategic investments, including the Totalgaz France acquisition, the AmeriGas merger, the Columbia Midstream acquisition and the pending Mountaineer Gas acquisition,” said Frank Hermance, chair of the board of directors. “In addition to his impressive track record of financial and operational success, John has made significant progress on the company’s critical environmental, social and governance initiatives, including investment in renewable and sustainable energy solutions, commitment to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and promotion of diversity and inclusion through the company’s Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity initiative.”

Perreault joined UGI in 2015 as president of UGI International LLC and has served as UGI’s executive vice president, Global LPG since 2018. Before joining UGI, Mr. Perreault spent 21 years at Air Liquide where he served in various leadership positions around the world.

At Air Liquide, Perreault was president of its large industries business, and prior to that, was responsible for Air Liquide’s North American large industries business.

UGI joins Natural Gas Supply Collaborative to ensure ‘safe and responsible’ gas supply

UGI Corp. Utilities Inc. and UGI Energy Services LLC have joined the Natural Gas Supply Collaborative, bringing the number of companies in the group to 17.

The NGSC is an organization of natural gas purchasers, including both utilities and power generators, committed to promoting safe and responsible practices for natural gas supply.

According to a press release, the members of the organization service more than 60 million households.

NGSC provides members with technical expertise and guidance on the latest gas supply initiatives and emerging technologies.

“Our membership in NGSC is a further demonstration of our commitment to grow our business responsibly, while meeting the social needs of our customers, employees, and communities,” said Robert F. Beard, UGI executive vice president for natural gas. “We look forward to continuing to enhance and expand our Environmental, Social and Governance initiatives aimed at lowering methane and greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing system integrity and improving safety.”

‘We loaded up our vans and left.’ Reading-based UGI-HVAC crew helping storm-ravaged Texas

Members of the UGI HVAC team spent time in Texas, helping the state recover from a rare February storm that shut down water and electric services and killed nearly 60 people. PHOTO / UGI HVAC

Ten plumbing and HVAC professionals from Reading-based UGI HVAC, a HomeServe USA company, are spending two weeks in Texas, working to restore water and air conditioning services to residents affected by a massive winter storm last month that killed at least 58 people and disrupted power and water services for millions.

Brad Auman of Fleetwood, a UGI HVAC supervisor, traveled with his crew last week, arriving in the metropolitan Dallas area on Friday after a two-day trip.

“We loaded up our vans with all the parts we’d need and left Reading about five o’clock Thursday morning,” Auman related. “We stayed overnight in Nashville and got down here to Texas Friday night.”

Employees have been working since they arrived, mostly to restore water to residents whose pipes cracked or broke when they froze. Texas experienced a period in February where temperatures did not get out of the low 20s. That’s a problem, Auman said, because pipes in Texas generally are not buried as deep in the ground as they are in colder climates, such as in Pennsylvania.

When the temperature drops like it did last month, those pipes are more apt to freeze than those deeper in the soil.

“They may have to adjust the way they do some things down here,” Auman said.

Most of the pipes affected are outside, Auman explained, but some residents have been without water in their homes for nearly a month.

“The customers we’re serving are all happy to see us and very appreciative,” he noted. “Everyone has been very nice.”

In addition to cracked or broken pipes, many Texans were without running water following the storm due to disruptions in water systems that serve the state’s 254 counties. Millions had no water or were under notices to boil tap water. Many HVAC systems also were damaged in the storm, which disrupted power to 4.5 million homes and businesses.

Power was interrupted due to failures in all types of power sources – natural gas, coal, wind, and nuclear – according to officials. Power generation capacity was cut by nearly 50 percent as one failure after another occurred. Those failures resulted in accusations, investigations, firings and lawsuits among public regulators and energy grid officials.

“It’s been a long haul for a lot of folks down here,” Auman said.

Wyomissing-based UGI HVAC Enterprises, Inc. was acquired in October by HomeServe USA, a provider of emergency home repair service plans. Formerly an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of UGI Corporation, UGI HVAC Enterprises include UGI Heating, Cooling & Plumbing; Berkshire Mechanical; and Denny’s Electric.

HomeServe USA has been overwhelmed with calls since the February storms in Texas and is relying on employees from around the country to help. Company representatives reported the number of daily jobs statewide remains double HomeServe’s average, and in the Houston area the number of jobs is nearly triple the daily average.

This is not the first time Auman was called away from home to assist in an emergency situation. He and a UGI crew were stationed in New York in 2012 to assist with repair efforts following Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast of the United States and other countries, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Bahamas and Jamaica.

UGI creates new head of Environmental, Social and Governance initiatives

UGI Corp. has created a new dedicated management position to lead its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives.

The creation of the new position, which will be supported by a dedicated team, is part of the company’s sustainability efforts and will enhance the quality of disclosure and reporting to its stakeholders.

UGI said it has published two ESG reports over the past two years and launched a number of key corporate-wide social initiatives including BIDE (Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity) and the establishment of methane and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets at UGI Utilities.

UGI has promoted Brendan Heck to vice president of Environmental, Social, and Governance to lead the ESG initiatives.

Heck has been with UGI since 2014 and most recently served as director of investor relations.

During his time with the company, he has held various positions in corporate finance and treasury, business development and strategic pricing.

Heck received his MBA from Duke University and his bachelor’s degree in economics from Lafayette College in Easton.

“We are excited to announce the formal creation of an ESG function and build on our recent progress. Brendan has gained an in-depth understanding of our Company and our values through his prior roles, was part of the team that launched our ESG initiatives and led the effort to publish our first two ESG reports,” said John Walsh, president and CEO of UGI. “We think his background will support our ESG efforts across the Company and facilitate enhanced disclosure of our progress for all stakeholders.”

Walsh said the company expects to announce ambitious GHG reduction and safety targets later this year and will continue to enhance its non-financial disclosure so stakeholders can evaluate UGI on progress beyond traditional financial commitments.

UGI to acquire Mountaintop Energy Holdings LLC in West Virginia for $540M

UGI Corp. announced it plans to acquire the largest local distribution gas company in West Virginia for about $540 million.

The company, Mountaintop Energy Holdings LLC, owner of Mountaineer Gas Co., currently serves nearly 215,000 customers in West Virginia. Most are residential with about 10% of its business comprised of commercial and industrial customers. The purchase price includes the assumption of approximately $140 million of Mountaineer’s debt.

“Our existing utilities business has shown the value of this long-term commitment to system enhancement and we expect to make a similar commitment in West Virginia,” said John L. Walsh, president and CEO of UGI. “We see significant investment opportunities to continue, if not accelerate, the replacement of over 1,500 miles of bare steel pipelines and expand the reach of natural gas in West Virginia to both unserved and underserved areas.”

He noted that over the past two years, UGI has been working to rebalance its business mix by investing more on the build out of its natural gas businesses.

Robert Beard, executive vice president of natural gas at UGI said Mountaineer fits in well with the company’s plans.

“Like UGI Utilities, Mountaineer’s customers are situated in the prolific Marcellus shale production region and have access to clean, abundant, reliable and affordable natural gas,” he said.

The transaction is subject to customary regulatory and other closing conditions, including approval by the Public Service Commission of West Virginia.

UGI announces emergency relief program for customers affected by COVID-19 pandemic

Customers who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic may qualify for an emergency relief program offered by UGI Utilities, Inc.

The company announced Wednesday it will launch the program to benefit both residential and business customers.

Residential customers with past-due balances may qualify for a one-time grant of up to $400. Those eligible will have qualified for the Federal CARES Act Economic Impact Payment or will have filed for unemployment benefits after March 13, 2020. The grant is considered a loan and does not have to be paid back.

Businesses and residential customers can apply to participate in UGI’s installment plan, which enables customers to spread their outstanding UGI balance over a period of time, providing an opportunity to catch up with payments.

Those interested in either phase of the emergency relief program can enroll online at www.ugi.com/reliefnow, or call UGI at 800-276-2722 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. to consult with a service representative.

Online applicants will complete a short enrollment form and then receive a “DocuSign” emergency relief program agreement by email. An online tool, DocuSign enables users to securely upload documents demonstrating program eligibility. Instructions concerning DocuSign will be included.

Customers eligible for either phase of the program must enroll before the bill payment due in December. The new installment payment amount will take effect beginning with the January 2021 billing cycle.

Some applicants who do not qualify for the emergency relief program may be eligible instead for one of UGI’s low-income programs already in place. UGI offers several assistance programs for low-income customers, who also may qualify for the federally funded

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which opens this year on Nov. 2.

A UGI customer service representative can help you determine eligibility for all applicable programs.

Connecticut home repair company acquires UGI’s HVAC subsidiary

HomeServe USA, a home emergency repair plan provider based in Norwalk, Connecticut, has acquired UGI HVAC Enterprises, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of UGI Corporation.

Based in Wyomissing, Berks County, UGI HVAC Enterprises was acquired through HomeServe’s Energy Services operation to expand its footprint of HVAC installation services in eastern and central Pennsylvania, according to a statement released on Oct. 1 by the Connecticut company. UGI’s HVAC operations include UGI Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, Berkshire Mechanical and Denny’s Electric.

“Offering a high-quality customer experience is what drives us at HomeServe, which is why we’re excited to work with our new colleagues at UGI HVAC to serve customers throughout their territory,” Global CEO of HomeServe Membership Tom Rusin said in a statement released last week. “The UGI HVAC business is a natural fit for our expanding HVAC operation that continues to grow in the Mid-Atlantic and around the country.”

HomeServe said the company is integrating the business into its Energy Services division with operations in the metro regions of New York, Boston and southern New Jersey. As part of the acquisition, HomeServe officials said, almost all of UGI HVAC staff accepted offers of employment with the HomeServe Energy Services operation and have been integrated into HomeService’s team, the company said.

“I am happy that almost all of the UGI HVAC employees were offered and subsequently accepted positions with HomeServe as this will create a seamless transition for the customers,” said Joe Hartz, President of UGI Energy Services.

UGI restarting gas main replacement projects

UGI Utilities Inc. said it will be restarting a number of natural gas main replacement projects in the Greater Lehigh Valley and Berks regions.

The projects are part of the company’s multi-year infrastructure betterment initiative that were put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The utility said the projects will be conducted with a modified construction schedule and will focus initially on projects that replace gas mains located in the street allowing workers to limit interactions with customers and to reduce the need to enter customers’ homes.

Work that does entail entering customer’s property will be rescheduled for a later date to help with social distancing.

UGI said it will contact any affected residents when the work is scheduled and access to properties is required.

UGI construction activity will start on the following projects the week of May 4:

  • The 2000-2100 blocks of Ferry Street in Wilson Borough;
  • The 400 block of South 20th Street and the 1900 block of Freemansburg Avenue in Wilson Borough;
  • The 2800-2900 blocks of Middletown Road in Bethlehem;
  • The 1900-2100 blocks of Allen Street, the 500-600 blocks of North Saint Elmo Streets, and the 600 block of North 20th Street in Allentown;
  • The 1200-1600 blocks of North 12th Street and the1100-1200 blocks of Marion Street in Reading;
  • The 100-200 blocks of Greenwich Street in Reading.

Construction activity will start on the following project the week of May 11:

  • The 2300-2400 blocks of Butler Street in Wilson Borough.
  • The 1600-1800 blocks of Hampden Boulevard in Reading;
  • Apple Alley from Franklin Street to Cherry Street and the 200 block of Cherry Street in Reading;
  • The 500-700 blocks of Weiser Street, the 500-600 blocks of McKnight Street, the 100 block of Greenwich Street, and the 100 block of Oley Street in Reading;
  • The 300-400 blocks of Pine Street, the 300 block of Sunset Road, and the 400 block of 3rd in Reading.

Construction activity will start on the following projects the week of May 18:

  • The 1500-1900 blocks of Lehigh Street, the 1600 block of Spruce Street, and 16th Street in Wilson Borough;
  • The 700-900 blocks of Fernwood Street, the 700-900 blocks of Wood Street, and Garrison Street in Bethlehem;
  • The 900 block of North 7th Street in Allentown;
  • The 2100 block of West Allen Street, the 500-600 blocks of North 22nd Street, and the 500-600 blocks of Lucas Street in Allentown;
  • The 2300-2400 blocks of West Allen Street, and the 600 block of North 23rd Street in Allentown;
  • The 1800-2200 blocks of West Highland Street and the 800-1000 blocks of North 18th Street in Allentown;
  • The 800-900 blocks of North 21st Street, the 200 block of West Greenleaf Street, and the 900 block of St. Elmo Street in Allentown;
  • The 300-400 blocks of Diamond Street, the 300-400 blocks of East Kleinhans Street, and the 300 block of East Berwick Street in Easton;
  • The 100 block of East Milton Street, the 100 block of West Milton Street, the 100 block of West Lincoln Street, the 500-600 blocks of Folk Street, and the 600 block of James Street, and Saint Johns Street;
  • The 800-1100 blocks of Locust Street in Reading.

UGI said it will perform all work with enhanced safety protocols consistent with orders issued by the Wolf Administration.

Construction work will typically occur between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.



With one rate increase on hold, UGI lowers cost rates

UGI Utilities Inc. said it will be decreasing its purchased gas cost rates starting Sunday.

It said the average residential heating customer’s bill will drop by 3% as a result.

A bill of $79.56 would decrease to $77.18 per month.

By law, utilities are required to pass the cost of the natural gas they purchase directly through to customers without any markup.

Meanwhile, as expected, the Pennsylvania Utility Commission has hit pause on a request from UGI for a separate 8.5% rate increase toward its operating revenue by about $74.6 billion per year.

The PUC board voted 5-0 on Thursday to suspend the rate increase request, which otherwise would have become effective Sunday.

It has delayed the request for up to seven months, as is typical for such procedures, so the commission can investigate the need for the increase and to take public input.

Public input hearings to gather comments about UGI’s rate increase request from concerned residents will be scheduled and publicized by the PUC and UGI when dates and locations have been finalized.

The PUC is expected to make a final decision about UGI’s request by Oct. 28.

UGI Utilities Inc. is based in Denver, Lancaster County and serves more than 640,000 natural gas customers in 45 counties in Pennsylvania.