HSC Energy Services was very busy this spring with the annual renewal of our Natural Gas Purchasing Program and helping some of our non-profit housing provider clients meet provincial energy data submission requirements. Now, just in time for summer, we bring you a fresh issue of Energy Matters, with updates on the natural gas market, a guest article from Enbridge Gas on incentives and upgrades available now, examples of energy-related innovations in housing from around the web, and your latest Utility Management Program report.
We hope you enjoy this issue!
In this issue:
- Natural Gas Market Roller-coaster Ride Continues
- Expert Advice, Incentives and Free Upgrades to Save Energy and Money
- Get Inspired – Energy Projects for Affordable Housing
- Log-in for your Q1 2022 UMP Report
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Natural Gas Market Roller-coaster Ride Continues
Since last quarter’s article, the North American natural gas market has hit and exceeded 14-year highs multiple times. This is due to many factors, including Russia’s War on Ukraine and resulting increased European demand for North American liquified natural gas, lower production, lower than average gas stockpiles, and unfavourable weather forecasts. The natural gas market has been extremely volatile on a daily and even hourly basis and overall is much higher compared to last year.
To get a sense of just how much natural gas pricing has been rising in 2022 so far, take a look at the graph below. Pricing is up over 200 percent compared to 2021, a year that also saw significant volatility and market increases.
Natural gas pricing is expected to remain higher compared to last summer and through the end of 2022 due to several factors:
- Hot summer forecast: natural gas is used to generate electricity during peak summer months when air conditioning use is high. In a hotter summer, demand for natural gas can increase, putting upward pressure on pricing.
- Less gas in storage: gas inventories are below the five-year average, and gas producers are working to re-fill gas in storage ahead of the summer, when gas will be used to generate electricity for increased air conditioner use. There is expected to be less gas in storage overall going into the fall heating season compared to the past five years.
- Increased European demand: North American liquified natural gas exports are expected to remain higher than previous years in response to increased demand from Europe and high international gas prices.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. natural gas market pricing may level out into 2023 if gas production increases to match the current demand. While production has increased somewhat in recent weeks, overall demand has outpaced production month after month.
As we mentioned last quarter, there is roughly a six-month lag for the impacts of gas market pricing to be felt by the average Ontario gas customer on a standard utility rate because the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) must approve rate increases and this is done on a quarterly basis. Earlier this month, the OEB approved rate increases of 18.5 to 23.2 percent effective July 1st. Customers on fixed rates through HSC’s Natural Gas Purchasing Program are protected from the current volatility and price increases.
Expert Advice, Incentives and Free Upgrades to Save Energy and Money
The following guest article on 2022 natural gas incentive programs is sponsored content provided by Enbridge Gas, Inc.
At Enbridge Gas, we work hard to help affordable housing providers save money with our energy efficiency programs. Each program is thoughtfully designed with the intention of improving the quality of life of our customers, lowering energy costs to keep money in your pocket and reducing environmental impacts by lowering energy consumption.
Enbridge Gas’ Home Winterproofing Program is tailored towards income-qualified, individual homes and social housing providers. The program offers free residential improvements including insulation upgrades, water-consumption reducing showerheads and a smart or programmable thermostat. Each one of these upgrades will help to keep energy bills down and offer more comfort all year round. Social housing providers can access this program for their single-family homes, townhomes and eligible apartment buildings. The Home Winterproofing Program has helped over 10,000 Ontario households save money, save energy and increase comfort. Enbridge Gas values giving back to our communities and helping vulnerable populations in any way we can. We aim to develop meaningful and sustainable community partnerships to ensure our programs help as many people as possible.
Our Affordable Housing Multi-Family Conservation program can help you earn up to $200,000 in incentives for energy-efficient upgrades. During your eligible energy assessment, Enbridge Gas will offer you a tailored approach to find the right solution. Our goal is to reduce your energy costs and consumption, and increase the comfort of your residents, while keeping your building running at an optimal level. Enbridge Gas offers incentives on energy-efficient boilers, control systems, heat recovery units and more. When upgrading to high-efficiency equipment, your building will be doing its part in the fight against climate change by reducing its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.
Lastly, our Savings by Design Affordable Housing program encourages builders and developers of new affordable housing to integrate energy efficiency measures and practices into their building designs, as a means to maintain housing affordability, as well as energy conservation. The program provides financial incentives up to $120,000 to assist affordable housing builders to design and construct buildings that are more energy efficient than required by the Ontario Building Code. We also provide free, expert sustainable design assistance, consulting, and live energy modelling to show the impacts of various design options.
Enbridge Gas has helped hundreds of affordable housing providers, building managers and residents across Ontario find ways to become more energy efficient, cost effective and comfortable.
We’ll work with you to:
- Identify energy-saving opportunities.
- Calculate potential savings.
- Help you submit applications and receive incentives or free upgrades.
Let us guide you through the process, help get your savings underway and apply today at: enbridgesmartsavings.com/affordable
Enbridge Gas is committed to reconciliation, and we value the connection to the land of our Indigenous friends and partners. We aim to continue building meaningful, long-term relationships with the many Indigenous communities in Ontario and we hope to create opportunities that are aligned with community needs and aspirations. Through our program offerings, we hope to support and invest in Indigenous communities, while facilitating Indigenous economic engagement.
Get Inspired – Energy Projects for Affordable Housing
Summer is a great time for some light reading, so we’re sharing a few interesting articles that look at energy efficiency projects in affordable housing that are also attempting to address other issues such as sustainability, conservation and social justice. Whether you’re planning a new project, or simply interested in the latest approaches in the sector, we hope you’ll find interesting ideas in the examples below.
Conservation in Co-housing
A 2020 Connecticut development adopted a co-housing approach as a way to incorporate conservation and sustainability. While the project has a modest budget, the homes are still expected to qualify for Energy Star certification, with above-building code insulation levels, heavily insulation foundations, and electric air-source heat pump. Shared walls, via triplex and duplex arrangement, also add to the project’s efficiency.
Hamilton Heat Pump Pilot
CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) recently shared lessons learned from a pilot project to install air-source heat pumps in a three-storey, 40-unit multi-family building. The project was planned and implemented in collaboration with The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and will inform potential scale-up for additional buildings in Ontario. Check out this case study for the key results.
More and more, decision-making is being driven by data. Governments and community groups in three Ohio cities are using data-mapping tools to identify neighbourhoods where higher energy burdens, climate risks, and pollution impacts overlap. This exercise will help these cities ensure their response is equitable and aids those disproportionately impacted by these factors. Read more about the project here.
A Virginia-based home builder recently completed an all-electric, net positive modular townhouse that the company is using as a prototype for future townhouse development. The home achieves net-positive energy standards through features such as solar panels, airtight construction, extra insulation, and a Tesla Powerwall for energy storage. While the prototype is listed for a cool $899,900US, the builder notes that scalability, both of home size and number of units, can improve affordability while resulting in a highly efficient home.
Green or Greenwashed
Milan’s Bosco Verticale building is famous for its “vertical forest” design, with three hectares worth of trees and shrubs rising on balconies 26 storeys high. But many criticize the design due to its heavy reliance on carbon-intensive concrete to hold the trees, and for privatizing nature to those who can afford to live there. Check out this compelling CBC article, which explores the intersection between sustainable design and housing affordability.
The above are just a few interesting examples of innovations emerging from the housing sector as people try to tackle the issue of affordability along with other important areas such as climate change, conservation and social justice. One of the themes we are seeing is that it’s difficult to keep innovative projects affordable, something that may be an even bigger challenge post-pandemic with inflation and supply chain concerns. However, it is our hope that as some of the new technologies are more widely adopted, affordability will be more achievable.
Log-in for your Q1 2022 UMP Report
In today’s world of skyrocketing utility prices, keeping track of your utility use is more important than ever. Reviewing your buildings’ utility performance is key to improving your energy efficiency and ensuring your equipment is operating efficiently.
Log in to UMP to view your latest UMP dashboards and Gas, Electricity, and Water reports. If you’re not sure how to interpret your data, contact us.
Other Topics? If you’d like to suggest a topic or want a one-on-one review with HSC staff, please contact us!