Winter is Coming (And for Many, Much Higher Heating Bills)

Many utilities across the country are warning customers that, due to several reasons including lower natural gas production and inventory, their bills could double from last year, translating to hundreds of dollars more.
By Anna Simet | November 04, 2021

One of the big headlines right now is how much more natural-gas using homeowners will have to pay to heat their homes this upcoming winter. Many utilities across the country are warning customers that, due to several reasons including lower natural gas production and inventory, their bills could double from last year, translating to hundreds of dollars more.

One energy analyst is quoted in numerous media outlets saying that all types of heating fuels—including propane and heating oil—will likely substantially climb. For oil, we’re talking negative per barrel prices nearly a year and a half ago, to a 3% jump in just one day in early October (up more than 60% for 2021).

But the price of wood pellets (or wood chips) just does not see these price swings. This price stability is one of the benefits the industry has been touting since the beginning, but I think people often have a difficult time seeing things from a long-run point-of-view, which is why it hasn’t gained as much traction as it warrants. Will rocketing energy bills create a a tidal wave of heating system changeouts? Probably not. Some? Likely. But in any case, what this does do for sure is get people thinking about and looking at alternatives. So, right now is an optimal time for renewable, modern wood heat to shine and draw some attention to itself.

Moving onto content in this issue, we have a good balance of topics related to our overall theme of material preparation and handling, and our bonus theme, which is renewable natural gas (RNG). “Size Reduction Solutions,” page 12, includes some equipment manufacturers discussing what’s new, and how they respond to market demand and consumer feedback. Our spotlight article on page 28, “Material Characteristics and Bulk Handling Design,” goes into detail about how feedstock variation affects material handling systems, and how to combat these issues.

As for RNG, I covered some panels at the virtual Biogas Americas conference, and you’ll find a review, “Biogas Now and Beyond,” on page 18. The biogas/RNG industry has so much momentum—and potential—and that was surely make evident by the conversations had by industry stakeholders, who discussed what they’re doing, trends they’re seeing, and what must happen to order to further drive the market. RNG is not without some challenges, and it seems right now, the biggest hurdle is the rate at which states adopt clean energy and low-carbon policies. Said Sean Wine, vice president of renewable operations at Clean Energy Renewable Fuels, about eight states currently have programs in the works, and the industry would greatly benefit from more of this type of state-enacted regulatory framework that will really give the compliance market a boost.

On the note of RNG, I want to end with a plug for our annual North American Renewable Natural Gas map, which is currently being updated for 2022. This joint project with the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas is now in its third year, and includes operating and under construction RNG projects in the U.S. and Canada. According to RNG Coalition numbers, there are 194 projects online as of mid-October (excluding under construction/development). For some context, at the same time last year, there were roughly 115 operating projects—an increase of about 68%. If you’re in the biogas and RNG space, you’ll want to check out this opportunity—reach out to us to learn more.


Author: Anna Simet
Editor
asimet@bbiinternational.com