While 2020 presented unexpected challenges, Peoples Gas adapted and adopted new processes to maintain the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas to customers throughout Florida, while pursuing new initiatives as a leading, statewide energy solutions provider.
Natural gas service expansion
In partnership with Chesapeake Utilities, Peoples Gas affiliate SeaCoast Gas Transmission completed the Callahan Intrastate Pipeline, bringing additional natural gas capacity to Nassau and Duval counties in northeast Florida. The new supply source enables Peoples Gas and the Florida Public Utilities Company (FPUC), a Chesapeake Utilities subsidiary, to expand natural gas distribution services to this growing region.
The Florida Public Service Commission approved the multi-million-dollar project in December of 2019 to keep up with the demand for natural gas and serve more customers in the area. Peoples Gas also invested in additional system improvements to serve more than 30,000 current natural gas customers in the region, including JEA, the city of Jacksonville’s community-owned utility providing electric, water, and sewer services.
“This is the second successful project Peoples Gas has done with FPUC since 2012 to meet the current and future demand for reliable, affordable natural gas in the state,” said T.J. Szelistowski, president of Peoples Gas. “Our goal is to provide energy solutions to help bolster our economy and the communities we serve.”
First commercial gas heat pump installation under new lower rate
Early in 2020, Peoples Gas partnered with the Tampa Housing Authority to install gas heat pump technology at the J.L. Young complex, a low-income, senior housing facility. The commercial gas heat pump was the first installation qualifying under a special lower utility rate approved by the Florida Public Service Commission for gas heat pumps in residential and commercial buildings.
Powered by affordable natural gas, gas heat pumps are an energy-efficient, lower-cost and lower-carbon option for cooling, space heating and water heating. “Natural gas-fueled equipment provides a reliable, resilient energy source, especially during times of electricity outages, storms and hurricanes,” said Rick Wall, Peoples Gas vice president of Engineering and Operations. “The J.L. Young facility will increase overall energy efficiency and benefit from the new gas heat pump rate through Peoples Gas.”
Emerging technologies, alternative eco-friendly natural gas fuels Florida
Peoples Gas is the first utility in Florida and among the first in the country to offer renewable natural gas (RNG) service. This year, the company moved ahead with its strategic plans to develop RNG resources from organic waste. RNG technology (waste-to-energy) captures biogas generated by agriculture, landfills or water treatment plants. Special equipment cleans or conditions the biogas to produce RNG, which can be injected into Peoples Gas’ existing pipeline and distributed and used just like conventional natural gas.
According to the American Biogas Council, there are currently 63 biogas projects in Florida with the potential for 230 new projects to be developed based on the estimated amount of available organic material. These projects could generate $690 million in capital investment and create 5,750 short-term jobs and 460 long-term jobs.
In November 2020, Brightmark, a global waste solutions provider, broke ground on the Sobek RNG project for the construction of anaerobic digesters at four dairy farms in Okeechobee County, Florida. Upon completion of the project, the digesters will generate about 171,000 MMBtu of RNG annually. The eco-friendly gas will be injected into the Peoples Gas pipeline system.
“This innovative renewable gas service is a win for the environment, a win for our customers, and a win for the communities we serve,” said Szelistowski. “RNG is sustainable and renewable. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and adds another clean energy option in our state’s diversified fuel mix.”
System upgrades to reduce emissions
This year more than 100 miles of cast iron, bare steel and plastic piping was replaced as part of Peoples Gas’ continuous system improvements. The ongoing upgrades help maintain a safe, reliable system while reducing carbon-equivalent methane emissions. We also introduced new state-of-the-art emissions detection vehicles to help identify and reduce methane emissions across the state for improved air quality.
A focus on customer satisfaction
Peoples Gas looks forward to continuing our role as an energy solutions provider throughout Florida. Every day, we work hard to earn our customers’ trust and satisfaction as we have for more than 125 years.
This year we earned the J.D. Power 2020 Residential Customer Satisfaction award for the eighth consecutive year with the highest score in the history of the gas utility residential study.
For the fourth time since 2016, Peoples Gas also rated highest in customer satisfaction in the south region of the J.D. Power 2020 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study.
Our company was named America’s Most Trusted Utility in 2020 for the sixth consecutive year in a national survey of residential customers conducted by Escalent. Peoples Gas received the highest overall score among the 140 natural gas, electric and combination utilities in the study.
“We’re dedicated to safely serving our customers, maintaining high standards for reliability, affordability and sustainability in all that we do,” Szelistowski stated.
As we approach the new year, Peoples Gas will continue expanding natural gas service to meet customer demand and providing clean energy solutions that will benefit our state’s economy, communities and environment for generations to come.