Nat gas expansion eyed in Augusta; Portland firm to help state lower energy costs

A few energy-related news items have broken this morning, heating up an otherwise chilly Monday.

The first is that Maine Natural Gas, a subsidiary of Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, announced in a release that it has started discussions with “potential large customers” to  develop a natural gas distribution system to serve Augusta.

According to the release, the first phase of the project would serve the city’s east side, tapping into an existing interstate pipeline in Windsor and running about 10 miles along Eastern Avenue to Hospital Street. The news aligns with the priority that Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has put on expanding natural gas options in the state as a way to address high energy costs.

“This is a great opportunity to provide new energy options for homes and businesses in the Augusta region,” said Bob Kump, CEO of Iberdrola USA, which is also the parent company of Central Maine Power. “As with our $1.4 billion investment in Central Maine Power’s electrical system, the proposed project is further proof of Iberdrola’s commitment to improving Maine’s energy infrastructure and helping to lower energy costs for Maine consumers.”

According to the release:

 Depending on discussions with potential customers, MNG will apply for state and local permits this spring, and hopes to begin the first phase of construction to the city’s east side this year. MNG’s plans include a second phase of construction that would cross the Kennebec and extend along Western Avenue and the Leighton Road to the North Augusta commercial area in 2013. The line will have sufficient capacity for expansion into the surrounding residential areas as well. Following recent expansions to Freeport and Bath, the service to Augusta will be the third expansion of the MNG franchise since 2010.

The other bit of energy news comes from Competitive Energy Services LLC of Portland.

The company announced it has been selected to serve as energy consultants to the state, acting as strategic advisors to state officials to assist them in managing heating and energy costs for a wide array of state buildings.

“We are pleased to have been chosen to help the state manage its energy costs,” said Jon Sorenson, managing partner, in a release.  “We are confident that we bring strong results to the state’s bottom line.”

Earlier this month, CES announced that the city of Portland had picked the firm to do similar energy consulting work, in hopes of dropping energy consumption.

According to the company:

Competitive Energy Services will serve as consultants to state facilities decision-makers. In the deregulated electricity and natural gas markets, the end-user has a choice of who will supply their energy. Through its robust competitive bid process, its advanced knowledge of the complex energy market and its long history with all qualified suppliers, CES will help the State of Maine make the right purchasing decisions.

 The Maine state contract covers the wide range of buildings and facilities operated by the government.  These are frequently large buildings with complicated heat and electric needs and, are in locations around the state.  This contract includes, among many other facilities: the Maine State House, the Cross Office Building, the Blaine House, the Maine State Museum, the headquarters and offices of various state agencies, the Riverview and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Centers and the Maine State Cultural Building.