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Natural Gas Utilities, E&Ps Giving Back for the Holidays
From assisting natural gas and electric utility customers in paying higher-than-usual energy bills, to decorating Ronald McDonald Houses for the holiday season, the energy industry has once again stepped up to the plate to spread cheer this holiday season.
Jackson, MI-based Consumers Energy said it would provide $7.25 million to help Michiganders struggling with winter heating bills via eight nonprofit organizations.
The goodwill comes amid potential “double-digit percent increases” in winter heating bills, Consumers Energy noted.
“Consumers Energy understands many Michiganders are facing challenging times, and no one wants to see rising energy bills ― especially our most vulnerable customers,” said CEO Garrick Rochow. “We recognize our responsibility to help our customers who count on us every day. Natural gas prices have climbed across the Midwest and nation, and we are committed to helping customers manage their bills and help those in need immediately.”
The Salvation Army, TrueNorth Community Services, United Way of South Central Michigan, Roscommon County United Way, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Superior Watershed Partnership and Michigan Veterans Trust Fund will be distributing funds to customers seeking help paying energy bills.
Waltham, MA-based Global Partners LP has also directed $2 million to provide heating oil to low-income households across the Northeast, aiding customers who may be struggling to pay for heating in the midst of “unprecedented uncertainty and challenges in the energy market.”
Nonprofits in Massachusetts and New York received about $650,000 each. Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont split a $700,000 donation.
The donations for heating oil are an annual tradition for Global Partners. This year, however, “recognizing additional need in the community, we expanded the program into a multimillion dollar support effort,” said CEO Eric Slifka.
The partnership noted that of the 5.3 million U.S. households that rely on heating oil in the winter, 82% are in the Northeast. This year, tight supply amid Russia’s war in Ukraine has left the Northeast with higher prices.
“This year, we are facing the highest energy prices we have perhaps ever faced, including prices for home heating oil,” said Executive Director Joe Diamond of the Massachusetts Association for Community Action. “This is a crisis that can only be met through a joint effort, a collaboration of government, nonprofits and the private sector.
“Global’s donation will be instrumental in allowing our dedicated fuel assistance teams to target and deploy public and private resources to meet the emergency needs of households across the state during what is turning out to be a very tough New England winter.”
UK-based National Grid plc, which serves parts of Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, donated $1 million total in November to three United Way Massachusetts branches and to the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund to assist customers with their energy bills.
The Good Neighbor Energy Fund is a cooperative organization between Massachusetts energy companies and the state’s Salvation Army. The program is available for customers whose gross household income ranges from 60-80% of the state’s median income levels. National Grid also noted the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is available for households with gross annual incomes that fall below 60% of the estimated state median income.
“National Grid recognizes that high energy bills can be a real challenge for many customers – especially as we get into the colder months,” said National Grid’s Helen Burt, chief customer officer. “The LIHEAP program can provide much needed assistance to customers who are struggling to keep up with their energy costs. We also encourage customers to look at options in our Winter Customer Savings Initiative, to consider a payment program, or see if they are eligible for rate discounts.”
Earlier this year, National Grid launched the Winter Customer Savings Initiative to provide customers tips to lower costs by reducing energy use, as well as manage bills with budget billing plans and secure energy assistance if needed.
Lighting Up Spirits
The UK natural gas and electric utility also continued its annual decade-plus-long tradition of decorating the Albany Ronald McDonald House and Ronald McDonald Retreat at Krantz Cottage in Lake George, NY. The Ronald McDonald House Charity (RMHC) locations provide housing and support for families with seriously or terminally ill children in the hospital.
National Grid’s Stephen Blydenburgh, an electric safety employee, also continued his tradition of collecting donations for RMHC from National Grid’s Warrensburg, Ticonderoga and Hudson employees in New York. Last year, Blydenburgh’s efforts raised $13,000 for the charity, including a company match from National Grid.
“It’s important to me and all of the people who are here [volunteering and decorating] to be able to give back to the community – to the kids who are going through what they’re going through – to be able to have a little normalcy for the holidays,” Blydenburgh said.
Meanwhile, National Grid’s joint venture with RWE Renewables, Community Offshore Winds, is expecting to donate more than 30,000 wild-caught, locally-sourced seafood meals to food pantries across New York.
“Many cultures gather around the holiday table for a seafood meal,” said Community Offshore Wind Vice President Pat Johnson. “To celebrate this cultural diversity across the state, and increase access to fresh seafood, we connected with the region’s commercial fisheries to source a sustainable catch that supports both the seafood industry and our communities.”
Community Offshore Wind, which is seeking to develop wind generation in the New York Bight, has more than 2,500 pounds of freshly frozen Long Island fish, and 10,500 cans of New Jersey clam chowder from Aqua Best Seafood Market and LaMonica Fine Foods ready for holiday meals.
“Supporting fisheries from New York and New Jersey benefits local economies by creating and maintaining jobs for fishermen, processors and wholesalers,” it said.
Deliveries are expected to send seafood to the Catholic Charities of Staten Island, City Harvest in Brooklyn, FeedMore Western New York in Buffalo, Food Bank of Central New York in Syracuse, Island Harvest Food Bank in Long Island, Reaching-Out Community Services in Brooklyn, Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York in Albany, Regional Food Bank of the Hudson valley in Cornwall-on-Hudson and at the South Shore Community Food Pantry in Staten Island.
Further south, Virginia Natural Gas (VNG), a natural gas distribution segment of Southern Company Gas, made the largest single grant in the company’s history to help customers struggling to pay for energy bills this winter.
VNG’s $750,000 grant to the Salvation Army’s EnergyShare program can assist customers struggling with energy bill payments regardless of income. According to VNG, the program has traditionally been funded via VNG employee contributions as well as voluntary customer donations made on a monthly bill payment.
“We have a long history of partnering with the Salvation Army to assist in helping our neighbors and community in times of need,” said VNG President Robert Duvall.
The current grant was made using non-ratepayer dollars, VNG said.
“We know these have been challenging financial times that have put an extra burden on family budgets, and we are here to help the communities we are privileged to serve,” Duvall said.
Georgia Natural Gas (GNG), another Southern Company Gas subsidiary, is also giving back to the community with donations totaling $373,000 to eight organizations.
“The ongoing public health and economic challenges of the past few years have made achieving education and social equity even more difficult, and we want to be part of the solution for our community,” said GNG CEO Mike Braswell. “These grants are an investment in advancing education and opportunity for children in metro Atlanta, recognizing the value of these organizations while helping fund their important work in the future.”
Donations will be directed to Arthur M. Blank Family Youth Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Fulton Leadership Academy, Communities in Schools, Breakthrough Atlanta, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Chris 180 and INROADS.
The grants are a piece of annual funds provided by Southern Company Gas and the Southern Company Gas Foundation, which provides millions in grants through its multiple subsidiaries and foundations to organizations that promote the company’s values in the communities it serves, according to GNG Foundation.
San Francisco-based utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) is contributing $325,000 to the Dollar Energy Fund using shareholder funds.
The Dollar Energy Fund, a charitable organization supported by 40 U.S. utilities, administers PG&E’s Relief for Energy Assistance through Community Help (REACH) program to provide financial assistance of up to $300 for customers struggling to pay past due energy bills.
PG&E noted that even with its contribution, the REACH program is seeking additional support to assist Northern and Central California customers.
“With the rising costs of goods and services, we understand many of our customers are facing financial hardship,” said PG&E Executive Vice President Marlene Santos. “A one-time donation or monthly fixed donation amount on your bill can help families in need throughout the year. The program relies on the generosity of donors, and we are grateful to those who provide critical support for the communities we serve.”
Since 2017, more than 16,000 grants have been offered to customers in need, representing more than $4.3 million in donations.
Customers may be eligible for REACH assistance if they have had a residential account with PG&E in the name of an adult living in the household and have not received REACH assistance in the last 12 months. What’s more, REACH income requirements are currently 200% above the federal poverty estimation. Customers must also have received either a 15-day or 48-hour disconnection notice, according to PG&E.
PG&E continued its holiday giving with a $900,000 grant split between two grant programs to support climate resilience efforts across its Northern California territory.
“When PG&E issued our Climate Strategy Report earlier this year, we recognized that our approach to climate action must be twofold – we have to become more resilient to the impacts being felt today, while also working to heal the planet and avoid the impacts of tomorrow,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Carla Peterman. “Through these two grant programs, we’re pleased to work collaboratively with organizations in our hometowns to address both of these challenges with a focus on equity.”
The Better Together Nature Positive Innovation grant program received $500,000 for five grantees to preserve California’s biodiversity.
Meanwhile, the Resilience Hubs grant program split a $400,000 award between seven entities from PG&E. The awardees are looking to design and develop hubs across Northern and Central California to serve communities facing increasing threats from extreme weather events.
Spreading Holiday Cheer Across Communities
Black Hills Energy (BHE), the natural gas and electric utility under Rapid City, SD-based Black Hills Corp., has spent December spreading joy across the territories in which it operates.
BHE employees in Rogers and Fayetteville, AK continued their annual tradition and sponsored children in need via the United Way of Northwest Arkansas’s Joy of Sharing program.
In Blytheville, AK, BHE employees sponsored three anonymous children from the Blytheville Elementary School’s Angel Tree for children in need. After exceeding the goal of spending more than $100 for each child, BHE employees were able to purchase the wants and needs for the children.
In Rapid City, BHE held its Pies for Pints Blood Drive. Once again, BHE exceeded expectations and received 50 pints in blood donations, above and beyond the 36-pint goal. And in Decorah, IA, BHE members volunteered at the Clayton County Food Shelf and packed 225 holiday meal kits. In addition, the Newton, IA-based BHE crew participated in the annual St. Nick’s Christmas Club project, wrapping gifts for more than 370 children.
What’s more, BHE’s Iowa Extended Leadership Team donated a bicycle for a seven-year-old boy waiting for a heart transplant.
BHE’s Albion, NE employees sponsored a family in a local school’s Christmas Blessings program to purchase and wrap presents for children in need. Employees in Casper, WY also delivered more than $1,000 worth of food to a local food pantry and distribution center. BHE’s Casper branch then lit up a service truck to participate in Casper’s Downtown Christmas Parade.
The Virginia Oil and Gas Association (VOGA), a nonprofit trade association representing the interests of the state’s oil and gas industry, is holding its annual Hot Christmas Meals Project to provide meals for those in need in the southwest Virginia area.
The past few years have “been difficult for everyone,” said VOGA spokesperson Beth Stockner. “The response and generosity by our members has been amazing, we are excited to again be able to offer these meals during this holiday season.”
Appalachian Energy Partners, AquaClear, Berkshire Hathaway Energy GT&S, CNX Resources Corp., Coronado Global Resources Inc., Diversified Energy Co., Enervest Operating, Equitrans Midstream Corp., Gasco Drilling Inc., Harbor Co., KNL, Noah Horn Well Drilling Inc., Natural Resource Services Inc. and ShalePro Energy Services all contributed to providing warm meals throughout 2022, according to VOGA.
International Holiday Help
Across the pond, Neptune Energy Group Ltd. is donating about US$600,000 to a London charity seeking to feed and clothe children experiencing poverty this winter. The exploration and production (E&P) company’s London-based employees are also expecting to volunteer on projects supported by the Childhood Trust.
“We’re proud to be working with The Childhood Trust and are encouraging others to support the appeal,” said CEO Pete Jones. “Our colleagues will also volunteer and work hand-in-hand with the Trust’s teams. If we – and those who join the appeal – give our time as well, we will help more children. With Christmas just around the corner, what could be more important than that?”
The company’s donation and support for the charity’s appeal “means tens of thousands of vulnerable children will receive the practical and emotional support they need to thrive, despite the challenges they face,” said Childhood Trust Chief Executive Laurence Guinness. “But we can help many more children struggling this winter if other companies step in and throw their weight behind the appeal.”
Ready to Contribute?
Here is a partial roster of charitable organizations that are near and dear to us here at NGI that are currently accepting donations for those less fortunate this holiday season:
- ALS Association
- Alzheimer’s Association
- American National Red Cross
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- Counterpart International
- Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
- Feeding America
- Gary Sinise Foundation
- Houston Area Women’s Center
- International Medical Corps
- Lola’s Lucky Day
- Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
- Project HOPE
- Samaritan’s Purse: Operation Christmas Child
- Second Harvest Heartland
- St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital
- World Central Kitchen
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