Corporate Managers Worried about Energy Costs

Corporate energy managers in New York, New England and the Mid-Atlantic overwhelmingly think that rising energy prices will adversely affect the U.S. economy this year and more than half expect the rising costs to hurt their businesses, according to a survey conducted in late January for PSEG Energy Technologies of Edison, NJ.

Directed at senior managers responsible for buying energy at 200 mid-sized ($1 million to $1 billion revenues) companies, the survey found 92% were concerned with energy costs and 77% found it "likely" they would face rising prices and energy shortages like California. Another 87% believe that rising energy prices would adversely affect the national economy this year, and 63% said energy prices would affect their company's growth. As many as 25% also worried that the energy hikes would cause layoffs.

However, unlike the OPEC-driven crisis in the 1970s, today's businesses are taking a "more measured and systematic" approach to energy efficiency. For instance, 44% of the respondents said their companies were taking steps to conserve energy - with 65% of the New England respondents saying they were reducing energy consumption.

"The response shows that smart companies aren't waiting to see energy prices rise further before acting," said William Tougher, president of PSEG's Tougher Industries in Albany. He said that "clearly, the California situation" was on the minds of many respondents.

Energy conservation options noted by respondents included more efficient heating and air conditioning systems (63% of those taking conservation steps did this) and installing energy efficient lighting (38% taking conservation steps were doing this). Another 13% of those conserving energy had commissioned energy audits to determine their best conservation strategy and some were planning to build upgrades.

Tougher said the survey was commissioned because PSEG, which provides energy conservation services, has seen a "fairly dramatic increase in interest for our services." The survey polled managers in Virginia, the Delaware Valley, Philadelphia, New Jersey, upstate New York and southern New England.

Carolyn Davis, Houston

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